Planet-Sized Sunspot Has Grown 10-Times In Just A Few Days, And It’s Aimed Right at Earth

It’s possible that the area may deliver us some surprise solar flares.

Publishedon Aug 26, 2022

A sunspot that is pointing straight towards Earth and is fast expanding has been seen by scientists. This sunspot has the potential to send an attack of solar energy our way in the coming days, according to Newsweek.

A few days ago, the sunspot, which was given the designation of AR3085 after the “active region” of the sun in which it first formed, was hardly a blip on the radar. According to, it has now increased in size by a factor of ten, transforming into a pair of sunspots that each measure almost as far as the circumference of the Earth. This animation illustrates the progression of the spot over the course of about two days.


According to SpaceWeather, a number of solar flares, which are huge bursts of electromagnetic radiation that snap off from the surface of the sun and blast forth into space, have been spotted “crackling” in the area. Solar flares are a type of solar activity that can be dangerous to earth if they are large enough.

The good news is that all of the flares that are occurring right now belong to the C-class, which is the weakest of the three classes of solar flares that government satellites monitor. In most cases, flares of the A-, B-, and C-classes are not powerful enough to have a discernible effect on Earth.

According to NASA, flares of the X-class have the potential to cause widespread radio blackouts, damage satellites, and knock out ground-based power grids.

If the spots continue to enlarge over the next several days, it is possible that they could emit more powerful flares that will go toward Earth. This could put satellites and communication systems in jeopardy. There is not, however, any immediate threat at this time.

On the surface of the sun, huge, dark patches characterized by intense magnetic fields may take the shape of sunspots. According to, the reason these areas, which often have a width comparable to that of planets, look darker is because they have a lower temperature than the rest of their surroundings.

They originate at areas of the sun’s surface where bands of the magnetic field get entangled and tight, so obstructing the passage of hot gas emanating from the inside of the sun and giving rise to colder, darker regions on its surface.

Solar flares are often caused by the accumulation of magnetic energy at the sun’s surface. When there are a greater number of sunspots present on the sun at a certain period, there is a greater chance that solar flares may occur.

There is a correlation between the sun’s 11-year cycle of activity and the frequency of sunspots and solar flares. This cycle alternates between times of high sunspot density and periods of low sunspot density around once every ten years or so.

It is anticipated that the next solar maximum, also known as the time of greatest sunspot activity, will occur in the year 2025. It is anticipated that during the days of the sun’s peak activity, as many as 115 sunspots would form on the surface of the sun.

Solar activity has been increasing over the last few years, and since spring of 2022, there have been a number of X-class flares that have swept across our globe, often occurring within a few of days of one another.

This trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. As time ticks away toward the next solar maximum, there is a good chance that there will be a greater rise in the number of sunspots and solar flares.


Solar Cycles

The Termination Event

June 10, 2021: Something big may be about to happen on the sun. “We call it the Termination Event,” says Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), “and it’s very, very close to happening.”

If you’ve never heard of the Termination Event, you’re not alone.  Many researchers have never heard of it either. It’s a relatively new idea in solar physics championed by McIntosh and colleague Bob Leamon of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. According to the two scientists, vast bands of magnetism are drifting across the surface of the sun. When oppositely-charged bands collide at the equator, they annihilate (or “terminate”). There’s no explosion; this is magnetism, not anti-matter. Nevertheless, the Termination Event is a big deal. It can kickstart the next solar cycle into a higher gear.

Above: Oppositely charged magnetic bands (red and blue) march toward the sun’s equator where they annihilate one another, kickstarting the next solar cycle. [full caption]

“If the Terminator Event happens soon, as we expect, new Solar Cycle 25 could have a magnitude that rivals the top few since record-keeping began,” says McIntosh.

This is, to say the least, controversial. Most solar physicists believe that Solar Cycle 25 will be weak, akin to the anemic Solar Cycle 24 which barely peaked back in 2012-2013. Orthodox models of the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo favor a weak cycle and do not even include the concept of “terminators.”

“What can I say?” laughs McIntosh. “We’re heretics!”

The researchers outlined their reasoning in a December 2020 paper in the research journal Solar Physics. Looking back over 270 years of sunspot data, they found that Terminator Events divide one solar cycle from the next, happening approximately every 11 years. Emphasis on approximately. The interval between terminators ranges from 10 to 15 years, and this is key to predicting the solar cycle.

Above: The official forecast for Solar Cycle 25 (red) is weak; McIntosh and Leamon believe it will be more like the strongest solar cycles of the past.

“We found that the longer the time between terminators, the weaker the next cycle would be,” explains Leamon. “Conversely, the shorter the time between terminators, the stronger the next solar cycle would be.”

Example: Sunspot Cycle 4 began with a terminator in 1786 and ended with a terminator in 1801, an unprecedented 15 years later. The following cycle, 5, was incredibly weak with a peak amplitude of just 82 sunspots. That cycle would become known as the beginning of the “Dalton” Grand Minimum.

Solar Cycle 25 is shaping up to be the opposite. Instead of a long interval, it appears to be coming on the heels of a very short one, only 10 years since the Terminator Event that began Solar Cycle 24. Previous solar cycles with such short intervals have been among the strongest in recorded history.

These ideas may be controversial, but they have a virtue that all scientists can appreciate: They’re testable. If the Termination Event happens soon and Solar Cycle 25 skyrockets, the “heretics” may be on to something. Stay tuned for updates.


Solar Cause for Large Quakes?

Study finds correlation between solar activity and large earthquakes worldwide

Study finds correlation between solar activity and large earthquakes worldwide

A new study published in the Nature Scientific Reports on July 13 suggests that powerful eruptions on the Sun can trigger large earthquakes on Earth. In the paper, the authors analyzed 20 years of proton density and velocity data, as recorded by the SOHO satellite, and the worldwide seismicity in the corresponding period, as reported by the ISC-GEM catalogue. They found a clear correlation between proton density and the occurrence of large earthquakes (M > 5.6), with a time shift of one day.

The Sun may seem relatively docile, but it is constantly bombarding the solar system with energy and particles in the form of the solar wind.

Sometimes, eruptions on the Sun’s surface cause coronal mass ejections that hurtle through the solar system at extremely fast rates.

The new study suggests that particles from eruptions like this may be responsible for triggering groups of powerful earthquakes.

“Large earthquakes all around the world are not evenly distributed– there is some correlation among them,” said co-author Giuseppe De Natale, research director at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, Italy.

“We have tested the hypothesis that solar activity can influence the worldwide [occurrence of earthquakes].”

Scientists noted a pattern in some massive earthquakes around the planet– they tend to occur in groups, not randomly. This indicates that there may be some global phenomenon triggering these worldwide tremors.

To address this, researchers searched through 20 years of data on both earthquakes and solar activity– specifically from NASA-ESA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite– seeking any probable correlations.


Image credit: NASA/SDO

SOHO, located about 1.45 million km (900 000 miles) from our planet, monitors the Sun, which helps scientists track how much solar material strikes the Earth.

By comparing the ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue– a historical record of powerful tremors– to SOHO data, the researchers noticed more strong earthquakes happened when the number and velocities of incoming solar protons increased.

When protons from the Sun peaked, there was also a spike in earthquakes above M5.6 for the next 24 hours.

“This statistical test of the hypothesis is very significant,” said De Natale. “The probability that it’s just by chance that we observe this, is very, very low– less than 1 in 100 000.”

After noticing there was a correlation between solar proton flux and strong earthquakes, the researchers went on to propose a mechanism called the reverse piezoelectric effect.

Compressing quartz rock, something common in the Earth’s crust, can produce electrical pulse through a process called the piezoelectric effect. The researchers think that such small pulses could destabilize faults that are nearing rupture, triggering earthquakes. Signals from electromagnetic evens, such as earthquake lightning and radio waves, have been recorded occurring alongside quakes in the past.

Some scientists think these events are caused by the quakes themselves, but other studies have spotted strong electromagnetic anomalies before huge earthquakes and not after, so the exact nature of the correlation of earthquakes and electromagnetic fields is still debated.

Meanwhile, this new explanation suggests that electromagnetic anomalies are not the result of earthquakes, but cause them instead. As positively charged protons from the Sun hit the Earth’s magnetic bubble, they generate electromagnetic currents that propagate across the world. Pulses created by these currents go on to deform quartz in the crust, ultimately triggering earthquakes.


“On the correlation between solar activity and large earthquakes worldwide” – Marchitelli, V. et al. – Scientific Reports – – OPEN ACCESS


Large earthquakes occurring worldwide have long been recognized to be non Poisson distributed, so involving some large scale correlation mechanism, which could be internal or external to the Earth. Till now, no statistically significant correlation of the global seismicity with one of the possible mechanisms has been demonstrated yet. In this paper, we analyze 20 years of proton density and velocity data, as recorded by the SOHO satellite, and the worldwide seismicity in the corresponding period, as reported by the ISC-GEM catalogue. We found clear correlation between proton density and the occurrence of large earthquakes (M > 5.6), with a time shift of one day. The significance of such correlation is very high, with probability to be wrong lower than 10–5. The correlation increases with the magnitude threshold of the seismic catalogue. A tentative model explaining such a correlation is also proposed, in terms of the reverse piezoelectric effect induced by the applied electric field related to the proton density. This result opens new perspectives in seismological interpretations, as well as in earthquake forecast.

Featured image credit: NASA/SDO


New Sunspots

MONSTER SUNSPOT: So you thought Halloween was over? Think again. There is a monster spot on the sun. AR2443 has more than quadrupled in size since it first appeared on Oct. 29th, and it now stretches more than 175,000 km from end to end. Philippe Tosi took this picture of the active region on Nov. 1st from his backyard observatory in Nîmes, France:

The sunspot has more than a dozen dark cores, many of which are as large as terrestrial continents–and a couple as large as Earth itself. These dimensions make it an easy target for backyard solar telecopes.

Of greater interest is the sunspot’s potential for explosive activity. The spotty complex has a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M-class solar flares. Any such explosions will be geoeffective as the sunspot turns squarely toward Earth in the days ahead.


SunDiving Comet

SUNDIVING COMET DESTROYED: The solar system now has one less comet. Earlier today, a sundiving comet discovered on Sept. 15th by Worachate Boonplod, a science writer from Thailand, passed too close to the sun and apparently evaporated. A coronagraph onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded the death plunge:

One comet went in, no comets came out. Fierce heat from the sun likely evaporated the comet’s fragile ices, transforming it into a disintegrated cloud of gas and dust.

Sundiving comets are more common than you might think. SOHO has found more than 3000 of them. Most are members of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate almost every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one attracts attention.


Huge SUnspot

THE SUNSPOT THAT WON’T EXPLODE: Measuring more than 150,000 km wide, sunspot AR2396 is one of the biggest sunspots of the current solar cycle. For the past week it has crossed the solar disk apparently poised to explode. Yet it has not. “It is a sleeping giant,” says Sergio Castillo, who photographed the behemoth from his backyard observatory in Corona, CA:

“AR2396 is huge, but dormant,” says Castillo. “There are very few flares erupting out of it.”

Castillo took the picture using a “Calcium K” filter tuned to the light of ionized calcium atoms in the sun’s lower atmosphere. Calcium K filters highlight the bright magnetic froth that sometimes forms around a sunspot’s dark core. AR2396 is very frothy, indeed.

Magnetic froth, however, does not herald an explosion. It merely means that the sunspot is photogenic.


New Solar Activity

FARSIDE SOLAR ACTIVITY: Solar activity has been very low for more than two weeks. A change could be in the offing. During the early hours of August 3rd, a new active region on the farside of the sun announced itself with a bright CME. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded the eruption:

The CME is not heading for Earth. It is billowing away from the sun’s farside, well off the sun-Earth line.

What’s next? Because the blast site is hidden behind the sun’s limb, we cannot yet inspect it and assess its potential for future eruptions. However, it should rotate into view in the days ahead, possibly bringing an end to two weeks of quiet.


Geomagnetic Storms Coming

FULL HALO CME, STORM WARNING: A coronal mass ejection (CME) is heading directly for Earth. It left the sun during the early hours of June 21st, and is expected to sweep up one or two lesser CMEs already en route, before it reaches Earth sometime on June 22nd. Click to view a movie of the “full-halo” CME, then scroll down for more discussion:

NOAA forecasters estimate a 90% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the CME arrives. This doesn’t mean that a major space weather event is in the offing. The storm could be mild. It all depends on how the magnetic field of the CME connects to the magnetic field of Earth at the time of impact. According to NOAA, there’s only a 10% chance of nothing happening, so stay tuned.


Strong Solar Flare

OLSTICE AURORA WATCH: On June 18th, sunspot AR2371 unleashed the strongest solar flare in nearly 2 months. The M3-class explosion caused a brief shortwave radio blackout over North America, and it hurled a CME into space. SOHO (the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) recorded a movie of the expanding cloud:

The CME is not heading directly for Earth. Nevertheless, it is probably geoeffective. According to NOAA computer models, the CME should deliver a glancing blow to our planet’s magnetic field during the late hours of June 21st. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for solstice auroras.


Solar Flares in The Offing

NCREASING CHANCE OF FLARES: NOAA forecasters have boosted the odds of an M-class flare today to 25%. The reasons are circled in this June 12th image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Sunspots AR2367 (left) and AR2360 (right) are growing with unstable magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class solar flares. At the moment, both active regions are crackling with low-level C-class flares. It may be just a matter of time before a more significant eruption occurs.