The Giant Sunspot Risks Blasting Earth With Powerful Solar Flares

Prince Menaria

The Sun has been rather active this year, but it’s about to get a whole lot more explosive. A massive sunspot on the surface of the sun has quickly developed over the past few days and now threatens to launch solar flares capable of causing significant disruption to satellite communications and power grids here on Earth. A huge solar flare was launched from this region back in 2014, so it’s worth paying attention to what happens here as we head towards solar maximum over the next few years.

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The Giant Sunspot Risks Blasting Earth With Powerful Solar Flaresprince

What Is A Sunspot?

Sunspots are temporary disturbances on the surface of the sun that appear dark due to lower temperatures in comparison to the surrounding areas. When a solar flare is associated with a sunspot, its occurrence can cause geomagnetic storms that may disrupt technology systems.
Sunspots are not exclusive to our sun, however; other stars in our universe also have them.
No one really knows what causes the formation of sunspots, but research is ongoing and seems to indicate that they arise from interactions between strong magnetic fields at certain latitudes on the surface of the Sun and relatively cool material such as molecular gas, dust, and small planetoids orbiting near it.
Sunspots can form very quickly, usually taking only ten minutes or so before they disappear again.

What Is Happening With This Particular Spot?

A massive sunspot developing on the Earth-facing side of the Sun has the potential to launch powerful solar flares capable of causing widespread disruption. The sunspots AR2665 and AR2676, each tens of thousands of miles across, emerged near the equator last week. They were about six times larger than those seen in typical years and presented no immediate threat, but could do so at any time. We could expect a major geomagnetic storm if AR2665 leaves the face of the sun, as it's expected to do in just a few days' time. And there are indications that it will generate solar storms with significant strength when it does depart from the surface of the star. But, these storms won't hit Earth for up to 24 hours after they occur, which means we have some warning.
A massive sunspot developing on the Earth-facing side of the Sun has the potential to launch powerful solar flares capable of causing widespread disruption. The sunspots AR2665 and AR2676, each tens of thousands of miles across, emerged near the equator last week. They were about six times larger than those seen in typical years and presented no immediate threat, but could do so at any time. We could expect a major geomagnetic storm if AR2665 leaves the face of the sun, as it's expected to do in just a few days' time.

Are We In Any Danger?

Earth has a good chance of feeling the effects of this sunspot, as it is currently pointed directly at our planet. However, it is impossible to predict when and if the sunspot will produce any dangerous solar flares in our direction. Luckily, this sunspot is an area where hot plasma gathers to form dark patches on the surface of the sun, but these often fade away quickly before doing anything hazardous. There's no need to worry right now—but we may not be so lucky with other large spots down the line. The giant sunspot, which has grown to over six times the size of Earth, emerged just two days ago and shows every sign that it could produce strong solar flares. These are bursts of intense energy which can interfere with power grids, radio communications, and GPS signals. While most of them occur near the equator, sometimes they head for North America or Europe. If this one does flare up during its early stages, then it would have even more impact because there are still so many people without adequate protective measures against space weather incidents . Stronger eruptions from this type of active region might cause ground currents, high-frequency radio blackouts, damage to satellites, and increased radiation in polar regions. It might also disturb navigation devices such as global positioning systems (GPS) for planes, ships, and cars.

Should we worry about space weather effects?
A massive sunspot developing on the Earth-facing side of the Sun has the potential to launch powerful solar flares capable of causing widespread disruption. It has already set off a Level-2 alert in which space weather forecasters recommend caution due to increased chances of geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras. However, we have time before this flare fully develops. Scientists project it will reach its maximum intensity some time from late July through early August. The really bad news is that while they can’t predict where these solar eruptions will take place or what form they will take, some kind of aurora or even power outages are possible if this sunspot flares up again later this year.

How long will this particular spot be around?
Huge sunspots like this are often around for a few days or less. The spot should move off the visible side of the sun by tomorrow morning and remain that way for several days before dissipating. Beyond that, it's hard to say. You can expect this particular spot to come back in about two years, but we'll see how its development progresses before worrying too much about when it will re-emerge on the visible side of the Sun. If anything, this is an opportunity to learn more about what causes solar flares and the effects they have on our planet.

Further reading & resources
I recommend that you take a look at the source to learn more about this issue. There is some great content there that can help you stay up-to-date on current happenings. You may also be interested in learning more about solar flares, about which I have shared some information below. You should always follow space weather forecasts and warnings for the latest developments related to solar activity and geomagnetic storms, which are produced by experts at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center. If they issue a warning, it’s wise to heed it! For example, as of February 3rd at 11:05 AM EST (when this post was originally published), the space weather forecast for today indicates an active period of moderate G1 geomagnetic storming.

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