Solar storm threat increases as MASSIVE sunspot faces Earth, NASA satellite shows

The source behind the nearly X-class solar flare eruption on Tuesday, a gigantic sunspot, is now in full view of the Earth, NASA satellite imagery has shown. Astronomers fear another major solar storm could be on the horizon.

| Updated on: May 18 2023, 09:43 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
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)
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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 Orbites captures solar eruption
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Know all about the giant unstable sunspot that is creating a solar storm scare for the Earth. (NASA)

Last weekend, the NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite detected that a massive sunspot lurked on the farside of the Sun which was big enough to change the way the Sun vibrates. On its way to turning and facing the Earth, it exploded on Tuesday and released a nearly X-class solar flare that sparked radio blackouts in North America. Now, the gigantic sunspot is finally facing the Earth and researchers are concerned about the possibility of yet another major solar storm spell.

As per a report, “The source of Monday's partially-eclipsed X-flare is emerging into full view. It is a large sunspot, some 3 times wider than Earth, and is surrounded by a bright froth of magnetic turbulence. Since May 16th, it has been relatively quiet--gathering strength for the next eruption”.

Giant sunspot creates solar storm scare

The concerns about solar storms are not without merit. The last time a particularly unstable sunspot appeared on the Earth-side of the Sun, it resulted in the most severe solar storm in the last six years. The incident occurred on April 20 and was attributed due to a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud that was hurled due to a major explosion within the sunspot.

This particular sunspot has already shown signs of being potent after exploding once on Tuesday and causing a nearly X-class solar flare eruption. While NASA satellites highlight that it is relatively quiet now, it is considered that the magnetic turbulence around the sunspot will soon turn it active again.

A powerful solar storm hitting the Earth can damage satellites, disrupt GPS, mobile networks, and internet connectivity, cause power grid failure, and even impact ground-based electronics.

The tech that is at work on NASA's SOHO

NASA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) is a satellite that was launched on December 2, 1995. It is a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the sun, its atmosphere, and its effects on the solar system. Equipped with 12 scientific instruments, such as Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph) and others, SOHO captures images of the sun's corona, measures the velocity and magnetic fields of the sun's surface, and observes the faint corona around the sun.

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First Published Date: 18 May, 09:42 IST