A massive sunspot on the Earth-facing side of the Sun is said to have been alarmingly quiet this week, which has left astronomers worried as they fear there could be a big solar flare building. They have warned that these solar flares could cause widespread disruption.
“This sunspot region was active a few days ago but has quieted down considerably. Remarkable as it does have a magnetic delta structure,” said a report by SpaceWeatherLive, which tracks real-time solar activity.
According to the report, while four sunspot regions with considerable flare probability are being monitored, sunspot region 3089 is the only one that can cause a powerful geomagnetic storm if the flare reaches Earth’s atmosphere.
A geomagnetic storm is capable of causing damage to satellites and telecommunication infrastructure — something previous studies have warned already. In 2021, a study by Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi from the University of California in Irvine had warned of an “internet apocalypse” caused by a once-in-a-century solar storm. Quoting experts, a report in The Independent said severe solar storms could result in widespread blackouts, and wreak havoc with GPS systems.
“Sunspot AR3089 has been quiet for days. Could it be the calm before the storm?” Spaceweather.com said on its website. Calling it “dangerous”, the website said, “The sunspot has developed a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class solar flares. If there is such an eruption it will be geoeffective because the sunspot is almost directly facing Earth.”
It said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates there is a 5% chance of eruption.
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Sunspot 3089 ‘Absolutely Something To Keep An Eye On’
Quoting NASA, the Independent report cited above said X-class flares, the biggest type of solar flare, are rare but can produce energy as much as a billion hydrogen bombs.
“If they’re directed at Earth, such flares and associated coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can create long lasting radiation storms that can harm satellites, communications systems, and even ground-based technologies and power grids,” NASA warned.
In the past, X-class flares on December 5 and 6, 2006, had triggered a CME that interfered with GPS signals being sent to ground-based receivers, NASA said, adding: “With advance warning many satellites and spacecraft can be protected from the worst effects.”
Explaining the position of sunspot 3089, the SpaceWeatherLive report said it is “absolutely something to keep an eye on in the days ahead”, adding: “If the group producing a strong solar flare launches a coronal mass ejection the chances are high that it will have an earth-directed component.”