After days of warnings for a G3-class geomagnetic storm, yesterday the coronal mass ejection (CME) finally hit the Earth and it turned out to be a dud. The impact only sparked minor G1-class storms briefly before being dispersed by the planet’s magnetosphere. While the Earth was lucky in this encounter, soon a far bigger problem is coming its way. Researchers have spotted a huge sunspot group on the farside of the Sun and it is big enough to change the way the Sun vibrates. It is expected to face our planet the next week and is expected to be active. Concerns are that if it blasts a CME cloud towards us, we might suffer a severe solar storm event.
As per a report by SpaceWeather.com, a massive sunspot group was revealed by Standford researchers. “The black blob is a sunspot group–big enough to alter the way the sun vibrates. Sunspots on this scale are usually active. The sun’s rotation will turn it to face Earth late next week,” stated the report.
Giant sunspot threatens solar storm terror
If you are wondering how were researchers able to see what lies on the farside of the Sun, then you should know that they use a technique called helioseismology, which is the study of the Sun’s interior using its own vibrations. These vibrations are caused by sound waves that travel through the Sun’s interior.
As per the information, the sunspot will be facing the Earth next week. Between now and then, it is expected to release CME bursts, which can be picked by NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). This will give us a better understanding of how dangerous solar storms caused by the sunspot can really be.
In the worst-case scenario, we may see extremely strong storms. Such storms can do more damage than normal. They can damage small satellites, impact mobile networks, GPS, and even pose a threat to ground-based electronics and power grids by increasing the magnetic potential by huge amounts.
How NASA SOHO monitors the Sun
NASA’s SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) is a satellite that was launched on December 2, 1995. It is a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the sun, its atmosphere, and its effects on the solar system. Equipped with 12 scientific instruments, such as Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph) and others, SOHO captures images of the sun’s corona, measures the velocity and magnetic fields of the sun’s surface, and observes the faint corona around the sun.
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