UNITED STATES: The giant sunspot on the surface of the sun has been unnervingly quiet this week, which has some astronomers worried that a powerful solar outburst may be forming.
Dr Tony Phillips, a retired astronomer with NASA, asks on SpaceWeather.com, “Could it be the quiet before the storm?”
“Although the AR3089 sunspot has been quiet, that doesn’t mean it’s going away. It has instead “built a delta-class magnetic field that stores energy for X-class solar flares,” Phillips added.
The X-class is the strongest type of flare, but even within that category, there is a lot of diversity. At its most powerful, the X-class can produce as much energy as a trillion hydrogen bombs.
Fortunately, the Earth’s magnetosphere’s powerful output spares us from any biological damage.
However, X Flares and the coronal mass ejections that are frequently linked with them can produce radiation storms that can harm satellites, interfere with Earth’s communications infrastructure, and even bring down the power grid.
The strongest flare ever observed is believed to have occurred in 2003 and was roughly X40, though sensors measuring it stopped off at X16.
The likelihood of an X flare over the next three days is under 5%, according to the most recent projection from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. However, a strong flare and CME would be visible to us because the dangerous sunspot was pointed squarely at Earth.
Even if the eruption is delayed, it won’t be long before we are again in danger.
Since the sun is approaching the apex of its 11-year sunspot activity cycle, we may anticipate that our star will continue to be active for the foreseeable future.