Unstable sunspots could hurl out X-class solar flares! Know the solar storm danger

Earth could be in the firing line of not just M-class, but X-class solar flares too as four sunspots have developed unstable magnetic fields. The danger of a solar storm have already increased.

| Updated on: Sep 27 2023, 13:38 IST
India's Aditya L1 mission to study the Sun, CME, solar flares and more
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1/6 ISRO has unveiled its upcoming major project, the PSLV-C57/Aditya-L1 Mission. It will be India’s first space based mission that will explore Sun and space weather. (SDO/NASA)
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2/6 ISRO shared on X (Formally Twitter), “Aditya-L1, the first space-based Indian observatory to study the Sun, is getting ready for the launch. The satellite realised at the U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), Bengaluru, has arrived at SDSC-SHAR, Sriharikota.” (Nasa)
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3/6 The mission’s name is Sun's nucleus, Aditya-L1 looks forward to providing unmatched insights into the Sun's actions. Its method involves placing itself within a halo orbit encircling the Sun-Earth system's Lagrange point 1 (L1), which is approximately 1.5 million kilometres distant from Earth. (NASA)
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4/6 The spacecraft will contain seven advanced payloads that are designed to study different layers of the Sun including the photosphere and chromosphere to the outermost layer, the corona. These payloads have electromagnetic, particle and magnetic field detectors. (NASA/SDO)
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5/6 The capability for four payloads to collect accurate and concentrated observations of the Sun. Simultaneously, the remaining three payloads will investigate particles and fields at the Lagrange point. (NASA)
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6/6 Aditya-L1's mission has the ability to directly capture Sun from unique points without letting eclipses or occultation in its way. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)
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X-class solar flares could soon be hurled towards Earth from the Sun. (SDO/NASA)

In the past three days, we've seen several geomagnetic storms hit Earth. On September 24, a G2-class storm hit the planet and sparked rare, red auroras over Scotland. Yesterday, a G-1 geomagnetic storm was predicted to hit Earth due to a CME approaching the planet. The effects of the Sun have been felt in the form of solar storms, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares over the last few months. In turn, these phenomena have sparked further events such as auroras, blackouts, and disruption of radio communications. This solar activity is expected to increase even more as we approach the solar maximum, the period in the Sun's 11-year solar cycle where its activity is the highest.

Now, a solar flare warning has been issued by the forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Know when it could hit.

Solar flare warning

According to a report by spaceweather.com, there are currently 10 sunspot groups facing the Sun, out of which four have mixed polarity magnetic fields that could explode. These sunspots are - AR3435, AR3443, AR3445 and AR3449. As a result, Earth is in the firing line of solar flares. As per NOAA, there is a 40 percent chance of M-class solar flares reaching Earth today, September 27. On the other hand, there is a 15 percent chance of X-class flares hitting the planet too!

For the unaware, 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.

Why 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.

If the X-class flares are too strong, they can result in loops that are ten times as big as Earth which leap off the Sun's surface as the magnetic fields cross over, according to NASA. When these loops reconnect, they can produce as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs!

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First Published Date: 27 Sep, 13:38 IST