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Giant sunspot threatens Earth as solar flare may cause blackouts

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The Sun is expected to explode any day now.

Solar researchers have their eye on a massive sunspot dubbed AR3055, which measures more than 6,100 miles wide. These regions, which appear as dark moles on the surface of the Sun, are concentrations of relatively cooler temperatures caused by a magnetic flux.

“There is an incredible-looking sunspot crossing the center of the solar disk and a new large dark core has just appeared on the limb,” astronomer Apollo Lasky said in a Monday statement published on SpaceWeather.com.

And it’s almost directly facing the Earth, which poses a threat to our way of life.

Researchers aren’t sure whether AR3055 grew to its current size from an existing, smaller spot, or rapidly developed on its own over the weekend, according to SpaceWeather.com, which also shared moving images of the spot, which boasts more than a dozen, swirling cores of magnetic energy.

A sunspot like AR3055 could lead to potentially detrimental “M-class” solar flare, or bursts of high-energy radiation that can last for hours. M-class flares are considered medium in size, but have the power to prompt radio blackouts in space and here on Earth.

Flares expel plasma from the Sun’s outer layer, or the corona. When the shockwave, called a coronal mass ejection, ultimately hits our atmosphere — which takes about eight minutes — they create geomagnetic storms with varying effects on satellites, GPS and power grids in the areas it hits, as well as natural processes, including the migration of animals, who rely on the magnetic field to navigate.

Flares are classified by strength, with types C and B falling below M, and X as the strongest of all, which could trigger planet-wide outages and storms of radiation.

The last M-class flare to threaten Earth was seen stemming from sunspot AR3038 last month as scientists warned of potential radio silence lasting about 10-minutes stemming from sunspot AR3038.



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