A large sunspot can be seen growing up and directly on the Earth

A large sunspot located directly in front of the earth is challenging astronomers because of its rapid growth.

Over the past few days, astronomers have been following the evolution of a large sunspot with particular attention; it grew at a maddening rate and would remain directly facing the Earth for several days.

These sunspots are dark areas on the face of the Sun. They appear as a result of magnetic field variations. If researchers look at them closely, it’s because they are the scene of violent solar flares.

This is usually associated with an event called “coronal mass ejection”, or CME. For a moment, it was a bubble of charged particles (or, more accurately, plasma) that found itself bursting in a precise direction of the star’s internal activity.

© SDO/HMI

The ground is directly visible

If the sunspot in question is directly facing the Earth, as is the case here, the planet is directly illuminated by these EMCs. And this is precisely the phenomenon that drives the monitoring of sunspots. Because this EMC can have very important consequences.

Most of them are stopped dead by the earth’s magnetic field, which serves as a shield. But the most powerful of these can still have noticeable effects. Not directly to people, but to electrical installations and electronic equipment. This is exactly what happened over the Easter weekend, when moderate solar flares caused some radio loss on Earth (see our article).

A sunspot 2.5 times larger than our planet

And in some rare cases, the situation can be critical. In fact, more severe EMCs could fry half the world’s electronic infrastructure in a matter of seconds, with all the disastrous consequences.

An X-class solar flare caused the disappearance of Earth’s radio

Suffice it to say that astronomers had to swallow a good shot when they found that the sunspot in question, called AR3038, was growing very fast. “Yesterday the AR3038 was huge. Today it’s huge. This fast-growing sunspot doubled in size in just 24 hours”, Explain the authors of the spaceweather.com report. But fortunately, astronomers consider this task less threatening than it seems.

No X-class explosion is expected

Solar flares are classified using a relatively specific nomenclature. It starts with a letter (A, B, C, M or X) that points to the power category. A means least; in contrast, X focuses on the most violent explosion. The official definition explains that they have the potential to “causing planetary radio blackouts and prolonged radiation storms“.

In the case of AR3038, specialists estimate that it could give rise to a class M solar flare, which is equivalent to a medium intensity. So nothing no risk of radio blackout like last April. The possibility of an X-class solar flare, the only really bad type in our scale, as completely rejected.

On the other hand, this event once again shows that the Sun. particularly active at present. Astronomers know that it is currently in the ascending phase of its 11-year cycle; so they anticipate the important event. But even in this context, the spring sun is extremely eventful.

The number of sunspots is a very good indicator of this dynamic; and during that period, astronomers found almost twice the number than expected. So we have to knock on the tree as we approach next peak in solar activity, expected between 2023 and 2026.

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