The giant sunspot has grown to twice the size of the Earth. It has doubled its diameter in 24 hours and is pointing straight at us. Live science.
The size of the spot, which received the designation AR3038, exceeds the diameter of the Earth by 2.5 times. From Sunday, June 19 to Monday, June 20, the spot increased by 31,900 kilometers.
Sunspots are dark formations on the surface of our star where magnetic fields, created by streams of charged solar plasma, stick together before suddenly breaking apart. The resulting energy release triggers bursts of radiation called solar flares and generates explosive jets of solar material called coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
“Yesterday, sunspot AR3038 was large. Today it is huge. The fast-growing sunspot doubled in size in just 24 hours. AR3038 has an unstable “beta-gamma” magnetic field that contains energy for M-class solar flares. [среднего размера]and it’s pointing straight at Earth,” according to the Spaceweather website, which tracks space weather.
When a solar flare hits the Earth’s upper atmosphere, its X-ray and ultraviolet radiation ionizes atoms, making it impossible for high-frequency radio waves to reflect off them and creating a so-called radio blackout. Radio outages occur over areas of the Earth illuminated by the sun during a flare; such power outages are classified from R1 to R5 according to their severity.
In April and May, two solar flares resulted in R3 blackouts over the Atlantic Ocean, Australia and Asia. If an Earth-facing sunspot forms near the Sun’s equator (which is where AR3038 is), it takes about two weeks for it to pass over the star and no longer point towards the planet. Right now, AR3038 is just north of the equator, a little over halfway, so the Earth will be in its “sight” for a few more weeks.
But despite the incredible speed at which it is growing, the giant spot is not as scary as it might seem. The flares it produces are likely to be class M flares, which are the most common class of flares. Strong flares, class X, are observed quite rarely.
Since 1775, astronomers have known that solar activity waxes and wanes in an 11-year cycle. However, the Sun has been much more active lately than models predicted. Solar activity is predicted to steadily increase over the next few years, until it peaks in 2025, and then begins to decline.
Previously scientists have said that increased solar activity causes satellites in orbit around the Earth to go out of their orbits. Researchers predict that the situation will only worsen in the future.