Between Sunday and Monday, Sunspot AR3038 , obseved from Earth, more than doubled in size, making it several times wider than Earth’s diameter, and it’s continued to expand in the past 48 hours. Sunspots are darkened, cooler areas on the sun’s surface with unstable magnetic fields, and they can produce solar flares and coronal mass ejections. This one is pointing to Earth. Solar flares, which typically rise from sunspots, are “a sudden explosion of energy caused by tangling, crossing or reorganizing of magnetic field lines near sunspots,” NASA said. Our magnetosphere prevents the radioactive eruptions from harming life on the surface of Earth, but it does pose a risk to our communications systems, astronauts in space and even the electrical grid on the ground. Our star goes through regular periods of high sunspot and flare activity roughly every decade or so.
Large-scale blackouts have been caused by flares in recent decades. There is a 30% chance this sunspot will produce medium-sized flares and a 10% chance it will create large flares, C. Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said. Even if there is a potential for more intense flares in the next week or so, Andrés Muñoz-Jaramillo, lead scientist at the SouthWest Research Institute in San Antonio, said the sunspot is nothing for people on Earth to worry about.