By: April Carson
The sunspot that has expanded by a factor of two in only 24 hours is now facing Earth, suggesting it could fire a solar flare our way.
Sunspots are dark regions on the sun's surface that are linked to intense radiation bursts. They appear dark since they are cooler than other areas of the sun's surface.
Because sunspots are relatively cool, they form over regions where the sun's magnetic fields are particularly powerful—enough to keep some of the heat within the sun from reaching its surface.
The giant sunspot, which is now about the size of Jupiter, is located on the sun's eastern hemisphere. It is the largest sunspot seen since 1990.
Solar flares are huge bursts of radiation that are associated with sunspots. They can last for minutes or hours, and when they are directed at Earth, they can disrupt power grids, radio communications, and GPS signals.
A solar flare that is directed at Earth is called a "coronal mass ejection" (CME). CMEs can also disrupt power grids, radio communications, and GPS signals.
The magnetic fields in a solar filament can occasionally reorganize themselves. A solar flare occurs when this happens, as a sudden burst of light and radiation is launched away from the sun.
AR3038 is the name of the sunspot that has been growing in size recently. On Sunday, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured footage of the sunspot evolving over a day or two, twisting and contorting.
"Over the past two days, AR3038 has doubled in size and is now an impressive 80,000 miles across," said Spaceweather.com. "The active region is so large, it could easily swallow Earth."
According to SpaceWeather.com, sunspot AR3038 was "huge" yesterday. Today it is "enormous," according to the website. In only 24 hours, the fast-growing sunspot has doubled in size."
The sunspot's magnetic field might cause it to generate an M-class solar flare, which would be the second-most powerful form. It is unknown, however, whether this will occur.
The giant sunspot is currently pointed directly at Earth, and its size means that it has the potential to generate a powerful solar flare. Although it is not certain whether or not this will happen, it is important to be aware of the possibility and to be prepared in case it does.
Solar radiation is harmless unless you're in the Sun's path, and there have been no solar flare warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) as of Monday morning.
Solar flares can wreak havoc on Earth by distorting radio communications networks and navigation systems, although they must be powerful enough to accomplish so. This might cause issues for people who work in the maritime or aviation sectors, among other industries.
However, it's worth noting that an M-class flare would not be very disruptive in any case. Although M-class sun flares are the second-powerful type of solar storm, they are only known to produce moderate radio outages. An M9 flare, which is the most powerful of the M-class storms, can cause radio communication disruption for tens of minutes in regions on Earth affected by it and low-frequency navigation signal degradation.
In addition, M-class flares can also create auroras near the poles. These light shows are produced when high-energy particles from the sun interact with the Earth's atmosphere. As a result, M-class flares have the potential to be beautiful as well as disruptive.
The X-class flares are the most severe type of flare. The X20 flare, for example, is a strong X-class flare. For several hours, an X20 flare would cause complete high frequency radio blackout on the daylight side of Earth, as well as causing boats and planes to be unable to utilize navigation signals. In addition, an X20 flare would also create auroras near the poles that would be visible even in the daytime.
While M-class and X-class flares can cause disruptions, they are not typically dangerous to humans. However, a strong solar flare could potentially damage satellites and power grids.
The giant sunspot has more than doubled in size in the past 24 hours and is now almost as large as the planet Jupiter. The sunspot, which is actually a group of dark spots on the surface of the sun, is currently pointing directly at Earth. Scientists believe that the sunspot could produce a strong solar flare in the coming days.
Flares on the other hand are considerably less common, although they do happen about once every 11 years—the length of a solar cycle. The most recent solar cycle began in 2008, so we are currently overdue for a major flare.
While an X-class flare would be the most powerful type of solar storm, it is not necessarily the most dangerous. The main concern with a giant sunspot like this one is that it could produce a coronal mass ejection (CME).
A CME is a massive release of plasma and magnetic field from the sun that can interact with Earth's magnetosphere. This interaction can disrupt the Earth's magnetic field, causing auroras to form at lower latitudes than usual. In extreme cases, a CME can even cause a power outage by damaging transformers.
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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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