A large sunspot that is estimated to be three times the size of Earth is rapidly growing, doubling in size in just 24 hours.
The large sunspot called AR3038 is being monitored by officials, and according to SpaceWeather.com, it has grown to an enormous size of three Earth's and is expected to produce a medium-sized solar flare sometime in the future. Notably, the sunspot is Earth-facing, meaning that if a solar flare was to occur, Earth could be hit with an intense wave of electromagnetic radiation. Solar flares are often, but not always, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is a blast of charged particles that interacts with Earth's atmosphere.
The interaction between the charged particles and Earth's atmosphere can cause geomagnetic storms that can result in disruptions for GPS, radio communication, satellites, and even radio blackouts. More positively, a CME impact can also cause auroras to appear in the night sky, which is a result of the aforementioned interaction between the charged particles from the Sun and Earth's atmosphere. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitors the risk of coming solar flares and CMEs, and at the time of reporting, it hasn't issued any warnings regarding sunspot AR3038.
NOAA measures the severity of a solar flare on a scale of letters: A, B, C, M, and X. "A" level flares are the weakest, and each letter represents a 10-fold increase in energy output, which means an X-class flare is ten times stronger than an M-class flare. Notably, solar flare activity comes in 11-year cycles, and currently, the sun is moving towards its heightened period of activity, where officials estimate there will be more larger flares that fall into the M and X-class category.
"Yesterday, sunspot AR3038 was big. Today, it's enormous. The fast-growing sunspot has doubled in size in only 24 hours," said SpaceWeather.com author Tony Phillips
In other sun news, NASA recently filmed a long-duration solar flare erupting on the surface of the sun, check that out below!