Weird threat! NASA detects Ring-shaped sunspot; Solar storm fears rise for Earth

In the southern hemisphere of the Sun, a ring-shaped sunspot has been detected by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, Which has expanded at a furious rate over the last 24 hours. Is another solar storm coming for the Earth?

| Updated on: Apr 04 2023, 11:28 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)
3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (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)
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Know all about the ring-shaped sunspot that is creating a solar storm scare on the Earth. (Pixabay)

Earlier, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had revealed that as many as four sunspots have been detected on the Earth-facing side of the Sun, among which one was likely to erupt a C1-class solar flare and eject it towards our planet. However, in the last 24 hours, the situation has far worsened. The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has detected an unusual sunspot group which is shaped like a ring. The sunspot group has grown more than ten times in the last 24 hours and has now created a big concern about incoming solar storms in coming days.

The development was reported by which noted in its website, “A new sunspot is materializing in the sun's southern hemisphere. The unusual ring-shaped 'spot has increased 10-fold in size since yesterday and it could soon pose a threat for Earth-directed solar flares”.

Solar storm scare as sunspot grows 10-fold

There are two factors that govern whether a sunspot can explode and send solar storms towards the Earth or not. The first is the size of the sunspot. The larger a sunspot, the higher magnetic flux it contains within itself. This region conflicts with the rest of the Sun's surface and its normal magnetic field lines. As the conflict increases, the pressure within the sunspot builds up and it explodes. However, not all large sunspots explode.

This brings us to the second factor which is how concentrated the magnetic flux within a sunspot is. The darker a sunspot appears on the Sun, the higher the chances for explosion. Darker sunspots also have a considerably lower temperature which lead to frequent eruptions so the convection of heat can continue.

Scarily, this sunspot group fulfills both these criterias and that's why there is a chance that a severe solar storm can strike the Earth. An extreme solar storm event (G5-class) can cause major damage to our planet. The resultant solar storm could be equivalent to the Carrington event of 1859 which is the largest recorded solar storm on Earth. A solar storm like that today can be quite terrifying. It can disrupt GPS, hamper mobile networks and the internet and even cause a massive power outage by corrupting the power grids. Even the electronic devices on Earth are not safe from malfunctioning.

The role of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities. They include Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun's extreme ultraviolet irradiance and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.

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First Published Date: 04 Apr, 11:27 IST
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