Massive sunspot facing Earth doubles in size; raises serious concerns
Scientists at NASA are closely monitoring a gigantic sunspot called AR3038, which has doubled in size in the past 24 hours. The fast-growing sunspot's hazardous area faces Earth directly and might send solar flares our way if it bursts. These flares might damage navigation systems and radio communication networks. Notably, no solar flare warnings have been issued as of now.
Why does this story matter?
- Sunspots are a common phenomenon on the Sun. However, the rate at which the AR3038 has expanded has alarmed the scientists.
- If it indeed emits flares that would reach Earth, there is a chance that radio communication networks might get disrupted for tens of minutes—a cause of worry worldwide.
- However, such events are natural and out of man's control.
What are sunspots?
Sunspots are black-colored regions on the surface of the Sun, which are colder than the other areas. They emit powerful bursts of radiation. Sunspots are very cold because they develop over locations with extremely powerful magnetic fields. As a matter of fact, the magnetic fields are so strong that they even prevent the heat from touching its surface, giving the sunspot a black-colored appearance.
Medium intensity solar flares may cause radio blackouts
According to scientists, the Earth-facing AR3038 has a beta-gamma magnetic field that is unstable and stores energy for M-class (medium intensity) solar flares. The strongest flare (M9) may result in satellite communication disruptions and temporary radio blackouts around the Earth's two poles. If the flares are intense enough, infrastructure may get damaged and it would take a long time to repair, even months.
Radiation from solar flares might reach Earth
While solar flares from the AR3038 will not reach the Earth, their radiation might do so. However, people need not worry. They do not pose as big a risk as coronal mass ejections (CME), which can disrupt geomagnetism.