Exponential growth of Sunspot creates a new solar storm SCARE for Earth, reveals NASA

The Sunspot AR3234 has quadrupled in size in the last 48 hours, NASA has observed. Check how it may increase the Earth’s chances of a solar storm.

| Updated on: Feb 24 2023, 13:48 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
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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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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)
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Solar storm fears rise for the Earth as a sunspot grows four times its size, as per a NASA observation. (SDO/NASA)

For about a week now, the Sun was relentlessly blasting the Earth with solar flares. But today, February 24, it appears that there will be a brief period of rest as no solar flares or coronal mass ejection (CME) are incoming to spark solar storms for Earth to deal with. But there is no reason to celebrate as another terrifying development is taking place on the Earth-facing solar disk. The sunspot AR32334, which first appeared on the Sun on Monday, has been crackling with solar flares. NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory has now reported that the sunspot has grown quadruple its size in just 48 hours. As the sunspot is going to stay in our planet's view for the next few days, the fear of a massive solar storm is high.

The development was reported by SpaceWeather.com which noted on its website, “Active sunspot AR3234 is not only turning toward Earth, but also growing rapidly. AR3234 has a 'delta-class' magnetic field that harbors energy for strong solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of M-class flares and a 20% chance of X-flares on Feb. 24th”.

Solar storm fears increase

Such a sudden growth of a sunspot is not an everyday occurrence. This indicates that the sunspot contains a high amount of magnetic flux which is impacting the region around it. Such growth is usually followed up with a large explosion where solar flares erupt. However, this sunspot has already birthed six different solar flares so far and predictions suggest that more are on the way, and they can be as severe as X-class solar flares.

Such eruptions release a huge amount of coronal mass ejections into space, and it can reach the Earth and cause yet another solar storm. Considering how powerful the eruption was, the resultant solar storm can be extremely powerful. A powerful solar storm can potentially damage satellites, break down mobile networks and internet services, cause power grid failures and corrupt sensitive ground-based electronics such as pacemakers and ventilators. However, whether this solar storm can turn so dangerous is something we have to wait and watch.

Know about the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 24 Feb, 13:46 IST
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