- A sunspot, called AR3038, has doubled in size every day for the past three days, said a NASA scientist. When sunspots grow, there is a greater chance of solar flares.
- Solar flames can interfere with radio communications and power grids on earth. But this sunspot is not particularly likely to cause intense flares, experts told USA TODAY.
- The eruptions also have little effect on most people on earth, reassured experts, saying “there is no need to panic.”
A sunspot pointing towards the earth has the potential to cause sun flames, but experts told the United States TODAY that it is far from unusual and eased concerns about how torches would affect the blue planet.
Active Region 3038, or AR3038, has grown over the past week, said Rob Steenburgh, acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Forecast Office. The size and growth rate of the sunspot is quite normal, he said.
“This is what sunspots do,” he said. “Over time, they will generally grow. They go through stages, and then they decay.”
A SUN SPOT PLANET SIZE POINTS TO EARTH:What happens if there is a solar flare?
What are sunspots and sunburns?
Sunspots appear darker because they are cooler than other parts of the sun’s surface, according to NASA. Sunspots are cooler because they form where strong magnetic fields prevent heat in the sun from reaching the surface.
“I guess the easiest way to say that is that sunspots are areas of magnetic activity,” Steenburgh said.
GEOMAGNETIC STORM DAMAGE:Geomagnetic storm burns up to 40 of Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellites launched into orbit
Solar flames, which usually rise from sunspots, are “a sudden explosion of energy caused by the entanglement, crossing, or rearrangement of magnetic field lines near sunspots,” NASA said.
“You can think of it as twisting rubber bands,” Steenburgh said. “If you have a pair of rubber bands that twist around your finger, they end up twisting too much and they break. The difference with magnetic fields is that they reconnect. And when they reconnect, it’s in it. the process of generating a torch. “
The larger and more complex a sunspot becomes, the higher the probability of a solar flare, Steenburgh said.
How fast is AR3038 growing?
The sunspot has doubled in size every day for the past three days and is about 2.5 times the size of Earth, said C. Alex Young, assistant director of science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in an email .
Young said the sunspot produces small sun flames, but “does not have the complexity of the largest blouses.” There is a 30% chance that the sunspot will produce medium-sized flares and a 10% chance that it will create large flares, he said.
W. Dean Pesnell, project researcher at the Solar Dynamics Observatory, said the sunspot is an “active region of modest size” that “has not grown abnormally fast and is still somewhat small in area.”
GEOMAGNETIC STORM ON EARTH:Aurora borealis may dazzle tonight over the northern United States
“AR 3038 is exactly the type of active region we expect at this point in the solar cycle,” he said.
Andrés Muñoz-Jaramillo, lead researcher at the SouthWest Research Institute in San Antonio, said the sunspot is not something for people on earth to worry about.
“I want to emphasize that there is no need to panic,” he said. “They happen all the time, and we are prepared and do everything we can to predict and mitigate their effects. For most of us, we do not need to lose sleep over it.”
Types of solar flares, effects on the earth
Sun flames have different levels, said Muñoz-Jaramillo. The smallest are A-class torches, followed by B, C, M and X at the highest strength. Within each letter class is a finer scale of numbers, and the higher numbers indicate more intensity.
C-flares are too weak to noticeably affect the earth, said Muñoz-Jaramillo. More intense M-flares can interfere with radio communication at the earth’s poles. X-flares can interfere with satellites, communication systems and power grids and, in the worst case, cause power outages and power outages.
Lower intensity solar flames are quite common; X-flares are smaller, Steenburgh said. In a single solar cycle, about 11 years, there are typically about 2,000 M1 flares, about 175 X1 flares and about eight X10 flares, he said. For the largest solar flames at X20 or higher, there is less than one per cycle. This solar cycle began in December 2019.
WHAT IS A SUNFLOWER? And how can a geomagnetic storm make the Northern Lights visible in the United States?
The AR3038 sunspot has caused a C flare, Steenburgh said. Although there have been no M or X flares from this area, he said there is a potential for more intense flares over the next week or so.
“The chances of flares from this region continue to be good as the sunspot becomes larger and more complex,” he said.
Steenburgh said that Tuesday morning’s warning for flares includes an 8% chance of C-flares within the next 24 hours, a 25% chance of M-flares and a 10% chance of X-flares, which he emphasized “is not really out of the ordinary . “
The Space Weather Prediction Center will monitor these probabilities and send out warnings as needed, even though no solar flare warnings were issued Tuesday morning, Steenburgh said.
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.