Space weather experts have observed a growing sunspot that’s directing straight towards Earth, USA Today reports. However, the experts state that this is nothing to be feared.
According to scientists, this is something common. Sunspots are created when magnetic activity on the surface stops heat from reaching the surface. They generally grow with time and decay.
However, they can also lead to solar flares, and eruptions of electromagnetic radiation that can reach the Earth’s atmosphere and mess with short-wave radio signals, satellite communications, and even the power grid.
The latest spot has doubled in size each day for the last three days, reaching roughly 2.5 times the size of Earth. It is not that huge considering you’d need 1.3 million Earth to match the volume of the Sun.
Fortunately, despite its size, it “does not have the complexity for the largest flares.” Alex Young, associate director for science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told USA Today.
“This is what sunspots do,” Rob Steenburgh, acting leader of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Forecast Office, told the newspaper. “Over time, generally, they’ll grow. They go through stages, and then they decay.”
No matter the reassurances, solar flares can have serious consequences, particularly on manmade objects in orbit. In February, M-class flares caused a geomagnetic storm, wreaking havoc with 49 SpaceX Starlink satellites that had just been launched.
The flare has released two C-flares, with X-class being the largest, followed by M, C, B, and A, in descending order. Last month, NASA captured images of this year’s first observed X-class flares, which were way more powerful.
More solar activity is predicted as the Sun’s current 11-year solar cycle, which kicked off in December 2019, approaches its most active stage in the middle of this decade.