Solar storm threat for Earth continues amid NOAA satellites detecting sunspot decay | Tech News

Solar storm threat for Earth continues amid NOAA satellites detecting sunspot decay

NOAA satellites have spotted a decay in the magnetic field of sunspot AR3311. As a result, it has reduced the chances of an X-class solar flare eruption from 30% to 20%. However, it may be too early to write off the solar storm threat.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: May 24 2023, 12:10 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
Solar storm
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 storm
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)
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Know how the solar storm prediction is affected in light of a decaying sunspot. (Pixabay)

Yesterday, it was reported that a highly unstable sunspot, AR3311, which was responsible for an X-class solar flare eruption last week, has now entered the full view of Earth. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite data showed a high chance of more flares erupting, with a possibility of another X-class flare explosion. However, today's data shows that the sunspot's magnetic field might be decaying and it lowers the risk of an intense flare eruption. But how does that affect the fears of solar storms for our planet? Not by much.

As per a report by SpaceWeather.com, “NOAA forecasters have decreased the odds of an X-class flare from 30% (yesterday) to 20% (today). This is in response to decay in the magnetic field of sunspot AR3311, currently the biggest threat for flares on the solar disk. 20% is still plenty, though, for an X-class explosion”.

The calm before the storm

It has been nearly 48 hours since the sunspot has been calm. But it could be possible that this is merely the calm before the storm. Sunspots are notorious for storing the energy calmly and then exploding either in one go or through a spell of continuous eruptions. What that means is we are not safe till the sunspot moves away from the Earth-facing side of the Sun.

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The sunspot is still powerful enough to deliver a highly charged coronal mass ejection (CME) that can produce even G5-class geomagnetic storms on Earth. Such storms hitting the Earth can damage satellites, disrupt GPS, mobile networks, and internet connectivity, cause power grid failure, and even impact ground-based electronics.

Know how NOAA monitors the Sun

While many space agencies from NASA with its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keep track of Sun-based weather phenomena, one that particularly stands out is the DSCOVR satellite by NOAA. The satellite became operational in 2016 and tracks different measurements of the Sun and its atmosphere including temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared.

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First Published Date: 24 May, 11:28 IST
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