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 SpaceWeather.com, 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 Space.com, 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.