A Planet-Size Sunspot Is Pointed Toward Earth

An enormous sunspot called AR3038, that has been doubling in size each day for the past three days is now facing Earth—meaning it could send a solar flare our way. Solar flares can disrupt radio communications and power grids on Earth.

What Are Sunspots And Solar Flares?

Sunspots are dark areas on the sun’s surface that are associated with intense bursts of radiation. They appear dark because they are cooler than other parts of the sun’s surface. They form over areas where the sun’s magnetic fields are particularly strong. These magnetic fields can sometimes suddenly reorganize themselves. When that happens, a sudden explosion of light and radiation is propelled away from the sun in the form of a solar flare.

How quickly is AR3038 growing And How Large Solar Flares It Can Produce?

“The Sunspot AR3038 has doubled in size each day for the past three days and is about 2.5 times the size of the Earth.” Alex Young, Associate Director For Science At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said in an email.

Young added the sunspot is currently producing small solar flares but “does have the complexity for largest flares.” There is a 30% chance the sunspot will produce medium-sized flares and a 10% chance that it will create large flares.

Types Of Solar Flares and Their Effects On Earth

“Solar flares have different levels,” Muñoz-Jaramillo, lead scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said. “The smallest are A-class flares, followed by B, C, M, and X at the highest strength”. 

 “C flares are too weak to noticeably affect Earth. More intense M flares may disrupt radio communication at Earth’s poles. X flares can disrupt satellites, communication systems, and power grids and, at their worst, cause electricity shortages and power outages.”

Do We Need To Worry About It?

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, “There is no need to panic as such sunspots happen all the time, and we are prepared and doing everything we can to predict and mitigate its effects. For the majority of us, we don’t need to lose sleep over it.”

Is Humanity Prepared For Such Events In The Future?

Some scientists have warned that we are insufficiently prepared for such an event and that the world should be taking more steps to avoid any possible danger.

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