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10 Aug, 2022
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Alert: Sunspot Facing Earth Rises In Size; Scientists Concerned

NASA Scientists are closely observing a giant sunspot called AR3038, which has doubled in size in the past few days. The fast-growing sunspot’s dangerous area faces Earth directly and might send solar flares our way if it explodes. These flares might damage the navigation systems and radio communication networks. Remarkably, no solar flare warnings have been issued, but still, this is a thing to worry about.

Why Is It Important? 

Sunspots are a common phenomenon on the Sun. However, the rate at which the AR3038 has developed has shocked scientists. If it indeed articulates flares that reaches the Earth, there is a chance that radio communication networks might get disrupted for tens of minutes—a cause of worry worldwide. However, such events in space are natural and out of man’s control. 

What Are Sunspots?

Sunspots are black-coloured regions on the surface of the Sun, which are colder than the other areas. They radiate potent bursts of radiation. Sunspots are very cold because they develop over locations with convincing, magnetic fields. The magnetic fields are so strong that they even control the heat from touching its surface, giving the sunspot a black-coloured formation. 

Sunspot Cycle

On an average, the duration of the sunspot cycle is around eleven years. However, the length of the cycle does vary. Between 1700 and the present, the sunspot cycle (from one solar minute to the next solar minute) has changed in length from as short as nine years to as long as fourteen years. However, out of the 26 solar cycles during those three centuries, 21 had a length between ten and twelve years.  

Arriving at a specific count of sunspots is not as explicit as it might appear. Some spots are much larger than others, some sunspots partially merge at their edges, and many spots appear in groups. 

The 11-year sunspot cycle is half of a longer, 22-year solar activity cycle. Each time the sunspot count rises and falls, the magnetic field of the Sun associated with sunspots reverses contradiction; the orientation of magnetic fields in the Sun’s northern and southern hemispheres switch. 

Thus, in terms of magnetic fields, the solar cycle is only complete after two 11-year sunspot cycles. This solar cycle is, on average, about 22 years long – twice the duration of the sunspot cycle.

Medium-Intensity Solar Flares May Cause Radio Blackouts!

According to scientists, the Earth-facing AR3038 has a dangerous beta-gamma magnetic field that stores energy for M-class (medium intensity) solar flares. The strongest flare (M9) may result in satellite communication disturbances and temporary radio blackouts around the Earth’s poles. 

If the flares are extreme enough, infrastructure may get damaged, and it would take a long time to repair, even more than months. 

Radiation From Solar Flares Might Reach Earth!

While solar flares from the AR3038 will not reach the Earth, their radiation might do so. Nevertheless, people need not worry. They do not pose as potent a risk as Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), which can disrupt geomagnetism. 

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