As sunspot count reaches a 21-year high, threat of a Carrington-level solar storm for Earth rises | Tech News

As sunspot count reaches a 21-year high, threat of a Carrington-level solar storm for Earth rises

The monthly average sunspot number for June was 163, which has taken 2023 as the year with the highest number of sunspots since 2002. Is this a sign for a devastating solar storm strike in the days to come?

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Jul 04 2023, 12:37 IST
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1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
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Know if a massive solar storm can strike our planet in days to come. (Pixabay)

As we enter July, the solar data from the previous month has been published and the number is terrifying. In June 2023, the average number of sunspots was counted to be 163. As a result, 2023 has also broken a 21-year record for the highest number of sunspots. And it has only been one half of a year. The current projection will make the peak of Solar Cycle 25 far greater than its predecessor, even as initial predictions said it would be weaker than Solar Cycle 24. With the rising intensity of solar activity, researchers fear that a powerful Carrington event-level solar storm could soon strike the Earth.

As per the data from the Royal Observatory of Belgium's Solar Influences Data Analysis Center, the average number of sunspots in June was 163, and it has taken 2023 to a 21-year high. A report by SpaceWeather.com said, “Solar Cycle 25 has shot past Solar Cycle 24 and may be on pace to rival some of the stronger cycles of the 20th century. The last time sunspot numbers were this high, the sun was on the verge of launching the Great Halloween Storms of 2003, which included the strongest X-ray solar flare ever recorded (X45). Interestingly, the coronal mass ejection (CME) from the event was so bright it was recorded by the Voyager from all the way at the edge of the solar system.

Sunspot count raises solar storm fears

The number of sunspots on the Sun is directly related to the intensity of the solar peak. The previous solar cycle was considered a mild one because the difference between the solar maximum and solar minimum (the period of the solar cycle when the activity of the Sun is at its lowest) was very low.

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But with the new data on the number of sunspots in June 2023, it becomes apparent that this time, the Earth is in for an erratic solar maximum, and it can result in some violent solar storms in the coming months.

Solar storms are caused by coronal mass ejections (CME) particles released whenever a solar eruption occurs. These eruptions, also known as solar flares, occur at the center of sunspots, which are the regions of unstable magnetic fields on the surface of the Sun. So, the higher the number of sunspots, the higher the chances of solar storms.

While it cannot be assessed how severe the peak of this solar cycle will be, a particularly violent phase was observed in 1859 when the Earth suffered its worst recorded solar storm in history. It is today known as the Carrington event. Such a solar storm today can cause terrifying damage. It can disrupt GPS, hamper mobile networks and the internet, and even cause a massive power outage by corrupting the power grids. Even the electronic devices on Earth are not safe from malfunctioning.

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First Published Date: 04 Jul, 09:28 IST
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