Highest number of dangerous sunspots in 3 years facing Earth; Big solar storm coming? | Tech News

Highest number of dangerous sunspots in 3 years facing Earth; Big solar storm coming?

Today, as many as 9 sunspots are facing Earth, the greatest number in the last 3 years. Is this a sign of a dangerous solar storm heading for our planet? Find out.

| Updated on: Dec 13 2022, 10:42 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)
Solar Orbiter captures solar eruption
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 Orbiter captures solar eruption
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Know whether the presence of an unusually high number of sunspots on the Earth-facing disk of the Sun can cause solar storm trouble for Earth. (NASA)

Astrophysicists have been warning us about the approaching peak of the ongoing Solar Cycle 25 for months. And today, for the first time, we have received proof that the peak is indeed coming soon. Today, as many as nine different sunspots are on the Earth-facing disk of the Sun. This is the greatest number of sunspots scientists have seen since the beginning of the current solar cycle in December 2019. The increase in the number of sunspots indicates that solar maximum, the peak of the solar cycle which has been predicted to arrive in the first half of 2023, is now upon us. And this is bad news for us. Nine sunspots also mean nine different regions on the Sun where the magnetic fields are unstable and can explode at any moment sending a huge solar storm to Earth. And if multiple sunspots explode together, the results could be devastating. Read on to know what the Sun is brewing today.

The development was reported by SpaceWeather.com which stated, “Today, there are nine distinct sunspot groups crossing the face of the sun--the greatest number so far during young Solar Cycle 25. This would seem to boost the odds of a solar flare”. A solar flare is the eruption of magnetic filament once a sunspot explodes. This also sends huge amounts of coronal mass ejection (CME) into space which eventually cause solar storms on Earth.

Solar storm trouble brews for Earth

With as many as nine sunspots, the risk is definitely high for a powerful G5-class solar storm striking the Earth. For the unaware, this is the highest class of solar storm which carries enough magnetic charge to destroy small satellites and damage sensitive instruments on larger ones. But not just stopping there, they also disrupt wireless communications such as GPS, radio waves, mobile networks and more. Even internet cables submerged in the ocean are not free from its effect. Furthermore, it can also damage electronic devices on Earth including critical instruments such as pacemakers. Even forest fires can be caused by them on rare occasions.

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However, there is some silver lining and we need not panic right away. SpaceWeather mentions that all the nine sunspots show stable magnetic field lines. This means that the chance of an explosion is not as high. While this reduces the chance of an immediate solar storm, it should be remembered that the magnetic polarity on sunspots is very volatile and is susceptible to instant changes. It remains to be seen whether the sunspots maintain their stability till they move away from Earth's view.

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First Published Date: 13 Dec, 10:10 IST