Sunspot could unleash terrifying X-class solar flares! Solar storm on the cards too? | Tech News

Sunspot could unleash terrifying X-class solar flares! Solar storm on the cards too?

A sunspot has been harbouring solar energy and could unleash M-class and X-class solar flares, followed by a solar storm on Earth, according to reports.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: May 01 2023, 09:02 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
Solar Storm
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)
Solar Storm
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)
Solar Storm
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)
Solar Storm
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X-class solar flares could be hurled out by sunspot AR3288. (Pixabay)

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. 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 that caught everyone off guard. This was later declared the most devastating solar storm in 6 years.

Now, forecasters have discovered a sunspot on the solar surface which could hurl dangerous solar flares.

Solar flare risk

According to a report by spaceweather.com, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has observed a sunspot, named AR3288, which could unleash dangerous solar energy. This sunspot is dangerous as it currently has an unstable 'delta-class' magnetic field. Although this solar activity might seem harmless due to the distance of the Sun from our planet, they can cause major damage. Because of the unstable nature of this sunspot, there is a chance of not only C-class and M-class solar flares, but also X-class flares!

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters have revealed that there is a 99% chance for C-class flares, a 35% chance for M-class flares, and a 5% chance for X-class flares. Moreover, this sunspot is almost directly facing Earth, and could hurl out a solar storm towards the planet. As solar flares travel out directly from the flare site, if we can see the flare, 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.

Danger of X-class flares

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, according to NASA.

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First Published Date: 01 May, 09:01 IST
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