Scary! Huge sunspot on the Sun could double in size, hurl solar flares

A scary sunspot could combine with another sunspot and hurl solar flares towards Earth! Here’s what you need to know.

| Updated on: Dec 05 2022, 12:01 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
Solar flare
1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
Solar flare
2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
Solar Flare
3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
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4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
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5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
Solar flare
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This sunspot has been observed in the solar region AR3157. (NASA)

The solar activity is nearly at its peak due to the Sun being in the middle of its 11-year solar cycle, which has resulted in increased solar output. Our planet has been in the firing line of solar flares, solar storms, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and more for quite a while and more are expected as the Sun moves ahead in its cycle. Although this solar activity might seem harmless due to the distance of the Sun from our planet, they can cause major damage.

Now, scientists are constantly observing increasing activity at a Sunspot named AR3157, on the surface of the Sun. It has been observed emitting plumes into space, according to a report by The report said, "New sunspot AR3157 doesn't look like much, but it is very active, almost constantly hurling plumes of plasma into space.”

This growing sunspot, if combined with another nearby sunspot, could trigger an explosion and send strong solar flares hurtling towards the planet. “Magnetically, sunspot AR3157 is connected to nearby sunspot AR3156. If one goes off, it could trigger an explosion in the other, boosting the odds of a significant flare,” the report added further.

What is a Sunspot?

According to NASA, Sunspots are dark areas on the solar surface which contain strong magnetic fields that are constantly shifting and can form and dissipate over periods of days or weeks. They occur when strong magnetic fields emerge through the solar surface and allow the area to cool slightly.

What are Solar Flares?

According to NASA, Solar flares are photon flares emitted from the Sun which travel from the flare site. They are ranked by alphabets depending on their intensity with ‘A' being the smallest in intensity and ‘X' being the most dangerous flare. Solar Flares occur due to Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) on the surface of the Sun which send charged photon particles hurtling towards Earth.

However, not all solar flares impact Earth. In fact, these flares only impact the planet when they originate on the side of the sun facing Earth.

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First Published Date: 05 Dec, 11:20 IST
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