SPACE weather experts are closely watching a “huge sunspot” that has doubled in size in the past 24 hours.
The unstable patch on the Sun’s surface faces Earth directly, so if it ruptures it could hurl solar flares our way.
A solar flare is not yet expected, but it could be possible if the sunspot continues to grow and behave unstable.
SpaceWeather.com experts explained: “Yesterday sunspot AR3038 was big.
“Today it’s huge. The fast-growing sunspot has doubled in size in just 24 hours.
“AR3038 has an unstable ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field containing energy for M-class solar flares, and it faces Earth directly.”
Sunspots are dark regions that appear on the sun in the burning mass due to magnetism.
They can last anywhere from a few hours to a few months, and are considered “dead” when they begin to break apart.
Not all sunspots produce solar flares, but when they do, they can strike Earth.
There is also the possibility of sunspots creating solar flares that don’t hit Earth.
The sun shoots many flares straight into space.
SpaceWeather.com experts mentioned an M-class flare in their analysis.
An M-class flare is considered moderately powerful and if it hits the Earth, it can cause brief radio outages around our planet’s poles and even some problems with satellite communications.
They can also cause solar storms of varying strength.
Solar flares are bursts of radiation from the sun that sometimes hit the Earth.
NASA explains, “A solar flare is an intense burst of radiation produced by the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots.”
Added: “Flares are also places where particles (electrons, protons and heavier particles) are accelerated.”
Solar flares can last only a few minutes or emit streams of radiation for hours.
The good news is that Earth largely protects us from the damaging effects of solar flares by harnessing its magnetic field.
They do not threaten the health of people on Earth, but sometimes pose a threat to the safety of astronauts.
One good thing about solar storms is that they can create very beautiful natural displays of light like the Northern Lights.
Auroras are examples of the Earth’s magnetic field being bombarded by the solar wind, creating pretty green and blue displays.