Huge sunspot set to Explode! X-class solar flare likely to cause blackouts on Earth today
This week has been scary for Earth and latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projections suggest that it is going to get a lot scarier. Just a couple of days ago, the USA suffered heavy radio blackouts due to an X1-class solar flare eruption on the Sun. The biggest effect was felt in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina where rescue operations and disaster management missions are being conducted in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The eruption resulted in GPS and radio waves being blocked and these operations being delayed by hours. Now, the Earth is looking at another solar flare eruption which can be even more intense. One of the largest sunspots of the year, AR3112, can explode any moment and scientists are concerned about its consequences.
The development was reported by SpaceWeather.com, which wrote, “Behemoth sunspot AR3112 is poised to explode. NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of M-flares and a 30% chance of X-flares today. Any eruptions will be geoeffective as the sunspot is almost directly facing Earth”.
Solar flare eruption can cause further blackouts on Earth
While it cannot be predicted when the sunspot can explode, it is likely to happen over the next 48 hours. The previous solar flare eruption was caused by a smaller sunspot and it produced an X1-class flare. X-class is the most powerful category of solar flares. The numerical 1 represents the intensity in the class. So, an X2-class solar flare will be twice as strong as X1. It remains to be seen how powerful the eruption will be.
The expected impact on Earth includes GPS disruption and shortwave radio blackouts but a more intense radiation burst can also trigger mobile network disturbances and power grid failures. This can propel a major communication blockade and can harm infrastructure and life.
The DSCOVR satellite by NOAA is responsible for tracking such solar events and predicting space weather. It has various instruments to observe temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation and frequency of solar particles ejecting from the Sun and calculates their intensity. This data is then added to a prediction model that gauges if sunspots can emerge, if a CME burst is possible and whether a solar flare or solar winds can strike the Earth.