Space weather experts are observing the solar spot directly facing the Earth, which has doubled in size in recent days, Spaceweather.com reported.
Solar spots are called sunspots. These are temporary spots that appear darker than the solar surface. A sunspot can be as small as 10 miles (16 km) but can also reach up to hundreds of thousands of miles in diameter. This makes them visible from Earth, even without a telescope. Sunspots can last from a few days to a few months and even move across the solar surface as they expand and contract in size.
It is not known why the sunspots appear, but scientists believe that this phenomenon is caused by the concentration of magnetic flux, which obstructs the convection process of the Sun. Sunspots also occur in the active regions of the solar surface and other activities such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
According to Spaceweather.com, Sunspot AR3038 is directly facing Earth and has an unstable beta-gamma magnetic field.
A sunspot can either die on the solar surface or burst, producing a solar flare. According to NASA, a solar flare contains an intense burst of radiation as the magnetic energy is released from the sunspot. Earlier this year, in March, as many as 17 eruptions were recorded from a single sunspot that sent out solar flares at the speeds of two million miles an hour.
High energy bursts at massive speeds in space can be a safety risk for astronauts. Therefore, organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) track space weather.
Solar flares are classified into five classes, A, B, C, M, and X, with each succeeding class 10 times more powerful than the previous class. The AR3038 sunspot is expected to give out a Class M flare, which is medium in intensity.
When X-rays and ultraviolet radiation in solar flares hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they ionize the upper layers, which are used for high-frequency communication like navigation systems and radio communication. When radio signals sent from Earth reach the ionized layers of the atmosphere, they either get degraded or absorbed, leading to a radio blackout.
According to the Space Weather Prediction Center of the NOAA, there is a 10 percent chance that a solar flare will occur soon and up to 30 percent that it will lead to a low-to-medium intensity radio blackout.
Solar flares are also responsible for phenomena like the Northern Lights.