Enormous sunspot creates solar flare scare for Earth; NASA says high risk of blackouts
Just yesterday, it was reported that as many as eight sunspots emerged on the Earth-facing solar disk (the side of the Sun visible from Earth). And today, NASA has reported that one of the sunspots, AR3038, has doubled in size in the last 24 hours, creating a situation of concern for us. At its current size, if it were to unleash a solar flare on the surface of the Sun, the powerful radiation can cause an instant radio blackout on Earth, disrupting various services. We witnessed something similar a couple of weeks ago, when an X-class solar flare disrupted the radio communications in parts of Russia and Japan. So, should we be concerned? Read on.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory of NASA observed this sudden change in the sunspot. Later, Spaceweather.com also reported on the incident on its website. It stated, “Yesterday, sunspot AR3038 was big. Today, it's enormous. The fast-growing sunspot has doubled in size in only 24 hours”. NASA defines sunspots as temporary darkened areas on the surface of the Sun that have reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic flux. These are highly unstable regions prone for continuous combustions.
A sunspot threatens the Earth with radio blackout causing solar flares
This particular sunspot, AR3038 (where AR stands for Active Region) was part of eight other sunspots which appeared on the solar disk on June 18. While it was not the most unstable, in the past 24 hours it has grown into an enormous size. With its current size, it is possible that it can release an X-class solar flare soon. For the unaware, solar flares are divided into A, B, C, M, and X categories where A contains the weakest solar radiation while X contains the highest amount of solar radiation.
According to NASA, an X-class solar flare can not only release enough radiation to disrupt shortwave radio frequencies and ham radio used by various navigation systems, it can also cause problems for GPS systems which are specifically used for planes and ships. While at the moment, it is not certain if a solar flare will definitely erupt, with the instability of the sunspot, there are chances of that happening.