Solar storm warning! Fearsome Earth-facing sunspot could unleash X-class solar flares!

A solar storm warning has just been released. Earth is in the firing line of a terrifying M-class and X-class solar flares that could be unleashed by an unstable active region on the surface of the Sun.

| Updated on: Jul 10 2023, 13:08 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
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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)
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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)
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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)
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Solar storm is likely and it could impact Earth. There is a 5 percent chance that X-class solar flares could be hurled out. (Pixabay)

Solar flares have been frequent in these past few months and as we move towards the solar maximum, the chances of solar storms striking Earth increase. Solar flares, CMEs, and geomagnetic storms can disrupt the power grid, shut down radio communications and even destroy satellites! A solar storm that is strong enough can even destroy the Internet. According to NASA, 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.

Now, another Earth-facing sunspot could unleash powerful solar flares that may have serious potential to wreak havoc.

Unstable sunspot

According to a report by, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecasted that an active region on the Sun's surface named sunspot AR3361 has an unstable ‘beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field which could result in strong explosions on the solar surface. This sunspot could hurl out dangerous solar flares directly towards Earth. NOAA reports there is a 40 percent chance of M-class solar flares and a 5 percent chance of X-class flares being hurled out! These flares will directly impact Earth as the sunspot is facing us.

The report states, “NOAA forecasters have increased the odds of a flare today (40% M-class, 5% X-class) in response to developments inside sunspot AR3361. Any flares will be geoeffective as the sunspot is directly facing Earth.”

Rating solar flares

According to NASA, solar flares are classified according to their strength on the logarithmic scale, similar to how earthquakes are measured. 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 10 times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.

X-class solar flares are known to be the most powerful solar flares, with as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs! Not only these flares can cause radio and power blackouts, but also give small doses of radiation to the people flying in airplanes at the time!

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First Published Date: 10 Jul, 12:37 IST
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