What is happening
A central sunspot has grown considerably in recent days.
why is it important
Sunspots can trigger powerful solar flares that disrupt radio communications on Earth and sometimes impact the power grid.
Space weather watchers are keeping a close eye on a dark, volatile spot on the sun that has risen dramatically this week.
Between Sunday and Monday, sunspot AR3038 more than doubled in size, making it several times larger than Earth’s diameter, and it has continued to expand over the past 48 hours, according to the heliophysicist from the NASA C. Alex Young, writing to EarthSky.
Sunspots are dark, cooler areas on the surface of the sun with unstable magnetic fields, and they can produce solar flares and coronal mass ejections of charged particles and plasma. These eruptions and ejections sometimes cause chaos for the electrical and radio communications systems here on Earth.
Over the past day, the mega-sunspot has triggered a pair of minor C-class solar flares while pointing directly at Earth, but astronomer Tony Phillips reports on Spaceweather.com that “Sunspot AR3038 has a field magnetic “beta-gamma” that harbors energy for M-class (medium-strength) solar flares.”
Typically, M-class flares aren’t that big of a deal, but earlier this year a flurry of M-class flare activity created a geomagnetic storm strong enough thata number of its Starlink satellites.
Our magnetosphere prevents radioactive flares from harming life on Earth’s surface, but it poses a risk to our communications systems, astronauts in space, and even the power grid on the ground, especially class flares. X more powerful.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center predicts a 25-30% chance of M-class eruptions over the next three days and a 5-10% chance of X-class eruptions.
Our star goes through regular periods of intense sunspot and flare activity roughly every ten years or so, a phenomenon known as the solar cycle. We are currently heading towards a peak of activity which should arrive in the mid-2020s, but 2022 has progressed earlier than expected. This year has already seen someand sunspot activity in May was more than double what forecasters predicted.
Large-scale blackouts have been caused by flares in recent decades, and this is the first time we’ve approached peak solar activity with thousands of new satellites in orbit.
On the positive side, all this action on the sun also increases the chances of seeing spectacular auroras, especially at higher latitudes. We’ll let you know if the chances of a spectacular light show suddenly increase.