Solar flare danger! Earth-facing sunspot could unleash M-class flares

Terrifying M-class solar flares could be on the cards as a sunspot facing the Earth has developed an unstable “beta-delta” field, reports NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

| Updated on: Aug 14 2023, 08:14 IST
In pics: Check out the mesmerising Perseid Meteor Shower at its awesome best
Solar flare
1/5 The most awaited moment when the Perseid Meteor Shower is at its best is here. The annual Perseid Meteor Shower has brightened magnificently leaving everyone in awe. The Perseids can be best viewed in Northern Hemisphere and the best part of is happening over the weekend when the shower is at its brightest and the fireballs can be seen in their greatest numbers too. (REUTERS)
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2/5 This celestial event is caused due to Earth passing through debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet's elliptical orbit around the Sun. Such particles collide with our atmosphere at speeds up to 59 kilometers per second. It results in their vaporization and creates luminous streaks in the sky which are often called 'shooting stars'. This occurs due to high-speed and intense friction. The phenomenon brings up to 100 meteors an hour, as the Earth slams into the debris left behind from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. (AP)
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3/5 As the debris hits the Earth's atmosphere it burns up which results in the bright flashes known as shooting stars. This can be seen with the naked eye. The natural phenomenon happens during the month of  July and August every year. This year Perseid meteor shower peaked between the night of August 12 and the early hours of August 13, 2023.  (AFP)
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4/5 These meteors hit the Earth's atmosphere at speeds of 215000 km/h. They do not pose any threat to the Earth. The Perseids are special because they often generate fireballs. Fireballs are big bursts of light and color that last longer than a regular shooting star. This happens because fireballs come from larger pieces of material. They're also brighter and can be seen better. (NASA)
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5/5 This year, NASA's All Sky Fireball Network spotted the first Perseid meteor on July 26. These meteors are called "Perseids" because they seem to come from the Perseus constellation, which is named after a character from Greek mythology. Keep your eyes on the clear sky and you might witness the most amazing astronomical phenomenon of the year. (AFP)
Solar flare
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M-class solar flares could be hurled out by the Sunspot AR3395, as per NASA. (Unsplash)

Solar flares are classified according to their strength on the logarithmic scale, similar to how earthquakes are measured, according to NASA. The smallest ones are A-class which occur at near background levels, followed by B, C, M, and X. Similar to the Richter scale that is used for measuring earthquakes, each letter on the logarithmic scale represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. So an X is ten times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.

Now, an Earth-facing sunspot could unleash powerful solar flares that could have the potential to wreak havoc.

Unstable sunspot

According to a report by, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has revealed that an active region on the Sun's surface named sunspot AR3395 has an unstable ‘beta-delta' magnetic field which could result in strong explosions on the solar surface. This sunspot could hurl out dangerous M-class solar flares directly towards us as it is located on the Earth-facing side of the Sun.

The report states, “Sunspot AR3395 has a 'beta-delta' magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M-class solar flares.”

Due to the unstable nature of the sunspot, there is a 99 percent chance for C-class flares and a 25 percent chance for M-class flares. As per the report, the chances of an X-class flare are very minute, at just 1 percent.

Impact of the Sun

Our Sun has a thin layer of second atmosphere that lies just above the photosphere as well as a huge corona. This is the region where we see most of the solar phenomena such as solar flares, prominences, and coronal mass ejections occur, most of which can directly impact Earth. While Sun's energy is crucial for life to exist on Earth, its related solar phenomena can cause severe damage, especially to tech instruments.

Strong, X-class solar flares that the Sun hurls out can disrupt global communications, harm satellites, and bring down the power grids to create blackouts. They can also create radiation storms which can give small doses of radiation to the people flying in airplanes at the time and astronauts too!

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First Published Date: 14 Aug, 08:14 IST