The latest click by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory reveals a cluster of sunspots that could soon send a solar storm on our home planet. The cluster of Earth-sized dark spots on the Sun are called 'solar archipelago' according to the scientist.
According to Space.com, the cluster consists of up to a dozen sunspots about 125,000 miles wide, or nearly 15 times the size of our planet, Earth. The report added that the group is active and impacts how the entire Sun vibrates. The sunspots seem dark due to their reduced temperature compared to other parts (they are still extremely hot at roughly 6,500 F).
Sunspots can produce powerful coronal mass ejections
The sunspots can produce powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that can collide with Earth and cause potentially dangerous geomagnetic storms, regardless of whether we can see the dark patches. The massive clouds of electrified petrol travel hundreds of miles per second and can disrupt power systems, communications, GPS navigation, air transport and satellites. The stunning auroras that appear at the Earth's poles are the only light spots.
Earth-orbiting satellites have already recorded three M-class flares and about a dozen C-class flares since initially detecting the sunspot group AR3490 and related cracking outbursts. According to the European Space Agency, M-class flares are medium-sized eruptions that can produce brief radio blackouts when aimed towards a search. In contrast, C-class solar flares are minor and have minimal impact when they hit Earth.
Every 11 years, solar activity follows a common pattern with peaks and lows occurring. The Sun's magnetic field drives these cycles, known as solar maximum and solar minimum.
Solar Cycle 25
We are in Solar Cycle 25, which is anticipated to end in July 2025. However, this cycle has produced more activity than NASA and NOAA predicted, with the official forecast of roughly 115 sunspots at the peak. Scientists are still determining the Sun's sudden activities; detailed observation is essential to improve future predictions and gain a better knowledge of the Sun's core processes.
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover also takes daily photographs of the Sun with its Mastcam-Z camera system. Its primary goal is to measure the dust in the Martian atmosphere, and the camera can also photograph sunspots. The rover detects sunspots early because Mars orbits the Sun's far side, giving it a week's head start over Earth.