Dangerous solar storm now stalking Earth after violent sunspots emerge on Sun

Two new sunspot groups have emerged on the Earth-facing side of the Sun. Astronomers are worried that they can cause another terrifying solar storm.

| Updated on: Apr 06 2023, 11:12 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
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)
3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
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Know why these two new sunspots are causing a solar storm scare on the Earth. (NASA)

The coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud that was forecast to hit the Earth, mercifully missed it by a narrow margin. But it might be too early to celebrate as new sunspots are already developing on the Sun, which can cause more solar storms. At present, there are three major sunspot groups on the Sun, and among them, two are very concerning. These are AR3270 and AR 3271. AR3270 is the ring-shaped sunspot which grew tenfold in just 24 hours and has two dark cores, both larger than the Earth. These sunspots are very unstable and can soon explode with M or X-class solar flare eruptions.

The development was reported by SpaceWeather.com which mentioned, “New sunspot AR3270 has rapidly grown into a behemoth with two primary dark cores larger than Earth and an unstable delta-class magnetic field. The mixture of magnetic polarities shown in this map is what makes the sunspot dangerous. NOAA forecasters say there is a 15% chance of M-class solar flares and a 5% chance of X-flares in the next 24 hours. Any eruptions will be geoeffective because the sunspot is directly facing Earth”.

Unstable sunspots create a solar storm scare

One major reason why these sunspots are concerning is because they contain both unstable delta-class magnetic fields and a mixture of magnetic polarities which makes them very volatile. Whenever an area with a positive magnetic charge and a negative magnetic charge overlaps, it leads to a phenomenon called reconnection. This causes a spontaneous combustion that leads to solar flare eruptions.

These eruptions are responsible for radio blackouts and GPS disruptions on Earth. They also release huge amounts of CME from the Sun's surface, which when comes in contact with the upper atmosphere of the Earth, sparks a geomagnetic storm. In extreme cases, these storms can damage satellites, disrupt mobile network and internet services and even cause power grid failures.

Astronomers are watching these sunspots to find out whether one of them will explode anytime soon.

Know how NOAA monitors the Sun

While many space agencies from NASA with its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keep track of Sun-based weather phenomena, one that particularly stands out is the DSCOVR satellite by NOAA. The satellite became operational in 2016 and tracks different measurements of the Sun and its atmosphere including temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation and frequency of the solar particles. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared.

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First Published Date: 06 Apr, 11:07 IST