Enormous Sunspot Doubles In Size In Only 24 Hours

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In just 24 hours, an immense sunspot has grown exponentially, putting it directly in our line of fire. Aggressive bursts of radiation are linked with sunspots, which are dark spots on the sun’s surface. This makes them appear darker than the rest of the sun’s surface, which is warmer.

In locations where the sun’s magnetic fields are especially powerful that they inhibit some of the sun’s heat from reaching the surface—sunspots are noticeably cooler. It’s not uncommon for these twisted-up magnetic fields to spontaneously restructure. This results in a solar flare, a burst of light and radiation that is pushed away from the sun.

AR3038 is the name given to the sunspot that has been expanding in size lately. On Sunday, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the sunspot as it has changed over the past few days, twisting and contorting. The sunspot’s magnetic field makes it capable of producing an M-class solar flare, the second-strongest type of flare. There’s no guarantee that this will happen, even so. Solar flares can interrupt Earth’s communications and navigation systems if they are powerful enough. People in the marine and aviation industries may be affected by this.

Sunspot AR3038
Credit: NASA

Having said that, an M-class flare is unlikely to cause too much of a commotion. In spite of M-class solar flares being the second-strongest, they rarely cause complete radio blackouts. It is possible to lose radio contact in impacted areas of the Earth and to degrade low-frequency navigation transmissions due to an M9 flare, which is the greatest of the M-class flares. Flares of the M-class are also not uncommon.

The more dangerous X-class flares are the rarer ones. The most powerful flares are classified as X-class. It would be impossible for boats and planes to use navigation signals when in an X20 flare, for example, which would end up causing a full radio blackout on the sunlight side of the Earth for many hours. Fortunately, these flares are extremely rare, occurring less than once every 11 years—the average length of a solar cycle.