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Solar storm warning as sunspot ‘bigger than Earth’ appears ‘crackling with solar flares’ | Science | News

A stream of solar wind is forecast to strike the planet’s magnetic field, possibly triggering a minor geomagnetic disturbance in the polar regions. According to the website SpaceWeather.com, the resulting solar storm could hit between Monday and Tuesday. The forecast was issued after a coronal hole was observed near the Sun’s equatorial region early on Friday.

Coronal holes are areas in the Sun’s atmosphere where temperatures are much cooler than the surrounding area and the Sun’s plasma is less dense.

Because the magnetic lines around these holes are thrown wide open, solar winds can escape into space and sometimes in the direction of our planet.

Space Weather said: “A minor stream of solar wind is approaching Earth, and it could cause polar geomagnetic unrest when it arrives on November 8 or 9.

“The gaseous material is flowing from an equatorial hole in the Sun’s atmosphere.

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“Auroras could appear in around the Arctic Circle as the planetary K-index reaches a value of 3 or 4.”

Solar storms are ranked on a scale of “G1 Minor” to “G5 Extreme”.

At the lower end of the scale, minor solar storms can cause weak power grid fluctuations and some disturbances to satellite operations.

Weak storms are also associated with the appearance of auroras at high latitudes.

Extreme storms, however, have the potential to wipe out power grids, knock out communications and cause auroras to appear as far south as Florida and Texas.

A “G3 Strong” storm has recently hit the planet, creating beautiful red auroras over the central US.

In this particular case, however, the solar winds are not expected to trigger a noticeable disturbance beyond visible auroras, which are caused by charged particles from the Sun imparting energy on atoms and molecules of gas in the atmosphere.

The arrival of solar winds coincides with the appearance of a large sunspot in the Sun’s photosphere.

Officially named sunspot AR2895, the dark blotch is estimated to be bigger than Earth.

Sunspots are temporary regions on the Sun that are caused by a so-called magnetic influx.

According to the US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), sunspots are frequently associated with other solar events, including coronal mass ejections (CMEs), radiation storms and radio bursts.

The space weather forecaster said: “The largest sunspot groups can cover large swaths of the Sun’s surface and be many times the size of Earth.”

Images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) appear to show two distinct cores in the sunspot.

Space Weather said: “Each of the two dark cores is about as wide as Earth.

“The growing double sunspot is crackling with C-class solar flares, activity which could intensify if the region’s development proceeds apace.”

According to NASA, sunspots appear darker than the rest of the Sun because they are considerably cooler – about 5,500F.

Sunspots form around areas where the magnetic field is particularly strong, which prevents from of the heat from within the Sun to reach the surface.

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