Sunspot could hurl out X-class solar flares! Geomagnetic storm on the cards | Tech News

Sunspot could hurl out X-class solar flares! Geomagnetic storm on the cards

A sunspot has been harbouring massive amounts of solar energy and could unleash either M-class or even X-class solar flares, followed by a geomagnetic storm, according to reports.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: May 29 2023, 08:45 IST
6 TERRIFYING solar storms that blasted Earth in 2022
Solar flare
1/6 On June 29, a surprise solar storm struck the Earth. The solar storm was not caused by coronal mass ejections (CME) but by a corotating interaction region (CIR), which opened a hole in the Earth's magnetosphere. It was a G1-class solar storm which is capable of causing shortwave radio blackouts and GPS disruptions. Interestingly, it coincided with the rare five planet alignment event.  (NASA)
Solar flare
2/6 Extremely rare pink auroras could be seen on November 3 near Greenland, after a G1-class solar storm slammed into the Earth. Solar storms usually give a greenish hue due to ionizing of Oxygen atoms. However, the CME in this case was able to reach the lower strata of the atmosphere which ionized Nitrogen atoms and gave off the rare pink aura.  (Representative Photo) (Pixabay)
Solar flare
3/6 On November 6, a powerful solar flare which was estimated to be an X-class solar flare caused temporary radio blackouts in Australia and New Zealand. The resultant solar storm blocked all high frequency radio waves making it hard for various emergency services and airlines that use radio communications to operate for multiple hours.  (Pixabay)
Solar flare
4/6 On August 7 and 8, a mysterious phenomenon was seen after a solar storm strike which scientists call STEVE (strong thermal emission velocity enhancement). A gigantic ribbon of purple light followed by a wave of green light could be seen in many parts of North America.   (@KaniskiDylan / Twitter)
Solar flare
5/6 A rare double solar storm attack was seen on March 14 when a G2-class solar storm was quickly followed up with another G1-class solar storm. Scientists believe that such multiple solar storm attacks are going to be more frequent in coming days as the Sun reaches the peak of its solar cycle. (Pixabay)
Solar flare
6/6 On October 25, the Sun seemed to beam a smile at Earth even as it spewed a stream of dangerous solar particles towards our planet. Multiple dark regions popped up on the Sun that gave an uncanny impression of a smiley face. The resultant solar storm from the event was noted to be a G2-class which is so strong that it is capable of causing fluctuations in electricity grids on Earth.  (SDO/AIA)
Solar flare
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X-class solar flares could be hurled out by sunspot AR3315 sparking a Geomagnetic storm on Earth. (Unsplash)

Just 5 months into 2023, we have already witnessed damaging solar activity bombard the Earth. Just last month, a menacing cloud of coronal mass ejection, erupting from a sunspot that was 20 times wider than Earth, struck the planet and unleashed a horrifying solar storm. This was later declared the most devastating solar storm in 6 years. It was quite surprising and unexpected. Solar activity has been on the rise for the past few months, and it is expected to increase further until solar maximum, the period of greatest solar activity during the Sun's 11-year cycle.

Now, a sunspot has been discovered on the solar surface that has the potential to release dangerous solar flares.

Danger of solar flares

According to a report by spaceweather.com, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have revealed that a sunspot, named AR3315, has been observed which could unleash dangerous solar energy. This sunspot is dangerous as it currently has an unstable 'beta-gamma-delta'' magnetic field. Although this solar activity might seem harmless due to the distance of the Sun from our planet, it can cause major damage. Because of the unstable nature of this sunspot, there is a chance of not only M-class solar flares but also X-class flares!

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The report further states that there is a 55% chance for M-class flares and a 10% chance for X-class flares striking the Earth! Moreover, this sunspot also has the potential to trigger geomagnetic disturbances such as a geomagnetic storm as it is directly facing the planet. As solar flares travel out directly from the flare site, if we can see it, we can be impacted by it.

How are solar flares rated?

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 for earthquakes, each letter 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.

Are X-class solar flares dangerous?

X-class solar flares can create radiation storms which have the potential to not only harm the satellites but also give small doses of radiation to the people flying in airplanes at the time! Moreover, these devastating flares can disrupt global communications and bring down the power grids to create blackouts.

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First Published Date: 29 May, 08:40 IST
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