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14 Sep 2022

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Fast-Growing Sunspots May Threaten Earth with Flares

A week ago, a tiny patch on the sun had grown to the size of Earth, a worrisome development that might pose the danger of blackout-causing plasma eruptions, solar flares, or, worse yet, geomagnetic storm-caused auroras.

Skywatchers on high latitudes and astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been treated to beautiful aurora displays over the past few weeks. There may be more displays as sunspot AR3085 grows and rotates toward Earth.

U.K. space weather forecasters are not worried about this spot right now, expecting 24 hours of moderate to low activity and rare solar flares that could cause temporary disruptions to communications signals.

SpaceWeatherLive, which tracks auroral and solar activity in real-time, reported on the sunspot region in its latest report.

“We are unlikely to be hurt by the flare, but it could cause communication disruptions on the daylight side of the Earth.” According to SpaceWeatherLive, “there is a 25 percent chance of an M-class solar flare.”

According to predictions, there is a 10% chance of an X-class solar flare which could cause extreme radio blackouts and cause a 'strong and long-lasting solar radiation storm.'

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has cautioned. "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,"

"X-class flares on 5 December and 6 December 2006 triggered a CME that interfered with GPS signals being sent to ground-based receivers. With warning, many satellites and spacecraft can be protected from the worst effects."

NOAA's Space Weather Condition Center predicts a 10 percent chance of an R3-5 Radio Blackout, which ranges from Strong to Extreme. R3 would cause wide area radio blackouts of high frequency (HF) communications for about an hour; The entire sunlit side of Earth would experience a complete HF radio blackout lasting for a few hours in R5.

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