A severe geomagnetic storm may be on the way? A colossal sunspot is poised to erupt
By: April Carson
The sunspot facing the Earth has grown in size by 60 percent in the past 24 hours, according to Spaceweather.com , and solar weather experts are keeping a close eye on it.
If the sunspot does erupt, it could unleash a "coronal mass ejection" (CME) - a massive burst of plasma and magnetic field.
These are dangerous because they can disrupt power grids, communications systems and navigation systems on Earth.
Solar spots are dark patches that appear on the sun's surface. They can range in size from 10 to hundreds of thousands of kilometers in diameter and can be seen from Earth without the use of a telescope. Sunspots can endure anywhere from a few days to a few months, and they may even migrate across the solar surface as they grow and shrink.
Sunspots are associated with the Sun's magnetic flux concentration, which inhibits solar convection, according to scientists. Sun spots also appear in sunspot regions and during other activities such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections. A sunspot that is particularly large and intense is called a "colossal" sunspot.
Sunspot AR3038 is facing Earth, according to Spaceweather.com, and its beta-gamma magnetic field is unstable. The sunspot has increased in size by a factor of two during the past 24 hours, according to the website.
A sunspot can either perish on the solar surface or burst, releasing a solar flare. According to NASA, a solar flare is a powerful burst of radiation as the magnetic energy is released from the sunspot. From one particular sunspot that produced solar flares at speeds of two million miles an hour, as many as 17 eruptions were observed in March this year.
As the sunspot is aimed in our direction, a geomagnetic storm may be on its way. A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave or cloud of magnetic field that interacts with the planetary field.
These storms can disrupt the power grid, radio communications and navigation systems. They can also cause auroras, also known as the Northern Lights, to be seen at lower latitudes.
The terrain may not be much to look at, but the weather can be severe. High-intensity bursts of energy with speeds that are beyond comprehension are a safety hazard for astronauts. This is why, for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keeps track of space weather.
How bad can solar flares be?
Solar flares are divided into five distinct categories, with each following class 10 times more powerful than the previous. The AR3038 sunspot is expected to erupt with a Class M flare that is moderate in strength.
Unless you're an astronaut currently on a mission in outer space, the Earth's atmosphere will keep you safe, although your radio equipment is likely to have a tiny blackout.
X-rays and ultraviolet radiation from solar flares ionize the top layers of the atmosphere, which are used for high-frequency communication such as navigation systems and radio communications. When radio signals transmitted from Earth reach the ionized layers of the atmosphere, they are either damaged or absorbed, resulting in a radio blackout.
According to the NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, there is a 10% chance that a solar flare will occur soon, and up to 30% that it would result in a low-to-medium radio blackout.
Auroras, or northern lights, are also a possibility if the storm is strong enough. These occur when charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth's magnetic field, and are usually seen in high-latitude areas such as Scandinavia and Alaska.
Solar flares are also responsible for the aurora borealis, which are caused by a phenomenon called solar wind. If the flare occurs, you should be able to see them more easily.
What is a geomagnetic storm?
A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave or solar flare. Magnetic storms are characterized by enhanced auroral activity, as well as disruptions to power grids, communication systems, and navigation.
How often do geomagnetic storms occur?
They tend to happen more frequently during what is known as solar maximum, when the sun's activity is at its peak. The most recent solar maximum occurred in 2014. However, geomagnetic storms can occur at any time.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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