Giant sunspot AR3190 sparks solar storm fears; Can cause blackouts, warns NASA

    NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory has issued a warning for a possible solar storm in days to come as sunspot AR3190 turns unstable. It can even cause radio blackouts on Earth.

    By: HT TECH
    | Updated on: Jan 25 2023, 13:00 IST
    NASA: From Solar Winds, Solar Flares to CME, check how solar phenomena impact Earth
    Solar storm
    1/5 The harrowing thing is that it will not just be China that would be affected by such a devastating solar storm. (NASA)
    Solar Flare
    2/5 Solar Flares: Solar flares are photon flares emitted from the Sun which travel from the flare site. They are rated on the basis of their intensity with the highest being an X-rated solar flare. It can cause power and radio blackouts and are responsible for the stunning phenomenon known to us as the Northern Lights or Auroras. (NASA/SDO)
    CME
    3/5 Coronal Mass Ejections (CME): CMEs are massive plasma clouds carrying photons that are ejected from the Sun. CME occurs during the solar cycle and is at peak in the middle of the cycle. (NASA)
    Coronal Mass Ejection or CME
    4/5 Solar Winds: Solar winds are high speed winds coming from holes in the Sun called Coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the surface of the Sun. If these solar winds prevail near the solar equator, they can cause impact on Earth, according to NASA. (Pixabay)
    Solar Particles
    5/5 Solar Energetic Particles: Solar energetic particles are emitted from the Sun during Coronal Mass Ejections. These are charged particles; hence they follow the magnetic field lines between the Sun and the Earth and if they pass the magnetic fields near Earth, they have an impact. (NASA)
    Sunspot AR3190
    View all Images
    Sunspot AR3190 can explode and spew out massive X-class solar flares towards the Earth, says NASA. (NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory)

    Even as Earth narrowly escaped a solar storm attack on Tuesday, fresh concerns from a gigantic sunspot have emerged. The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has been observing the sunspot AR3190, the huge sunspot that can even be seen through unaided eyes, and it appears that this solar region is setting itself up for an explosion. If it does explode, it can cause a dangerous solar storm event on Earth with a chance of X-class solar flares targeting the Earth. This can result in shortwave radio blackouts and even disruption in GPS and other wireless communications in various regions on our planet.

    This development was highlighted by the NASA SDO which has been tasked with observing the Sun and any solar activities that take place. It noticed that the sunspot, which was relatively stable so far, has suddenly started becoming unstable. SpaceWeather.com reported, “The sunspot's primary dark core is actually a huge pole of negative (-) magnetism closely surrounded by multiple islands of positive (+) polarity. This is exactly how solar flares get started”. It should be noted that this difference in polarity causes an event known as magnetic reconnection which can set off massive explosions.

    Solar flare scare for Earth as giant sunspot nears explosion

    Luckily, the sunspot is turning away from the Earth and as such we will not suffer a direct hit from this explosion. However, considering the gigantic size of the sunspot, a broad spray of an X-class solar flare will still hit our planet with massive amounts of X-rays and extreme UV radiation. This will not only cause a shortwave radio blackouts on any landmass it strikes, there can be other consequences as well.

    It is being said that the radiation can disrupt GPS services as well as other wireless communication systems including mobile networks. And if the solar flare is large enough, it will also send across a large cloud of coronal mass ejection (CME) which can cause further solar storms on Earth.

    This threat will exist for as long as the sunspot remains in the view of the Earth, which can be for the next 48 hours or more. For now, NASA SDO continues to observe the sunspot.

    How NASA SDO collects its data

    The NASA 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: 25 Jan, 12:54 IST
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