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A huge spot on the Sun has increased dramatically in size

The AR3038 spot — today the largest on the Sun — has grown even stronger in a day and has become two and a half times larger than the Earth.

©NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The sun continues to approach the maximum of the current (25th since the beginning of observations) cycle of activity, which is expected around 2025. New spots appear on the sun, and the largest of them — AR3038 — increases. Recently, it suddenly grew, exceeding 30 thousand kilometers across, the space weather monitoring portal reported Spaceweather.com.

Solar activity determines the movements of magnetic fields and streams of charged particles far around the star. This “space weather” can affect the operation of satellites, and sometimes ground—based electronic and electrical devices. Therefore, scientists are constantly monitoring what is happening on the Sun, primarily studying the behavior of dark spots on its surface.

Spots on the sun appear at the exit points of the magnetic field lines. They slow down the movements of the incandescent plasma, leading to the appearance of areas of not so high temperature that look dark. The number and activity of spots follows an 11-year cycle of solar activity: during periods of minima they may not be at all, and at maxima the number may reach tens or even hundreds.

Within a few days, weeks or months, they can “dissolve”, imperceptibly disappearing. However, this process can be accompanied by a sharp rupture and reconnection of the magnetic field lines, which leads to the appearance of powerful flashes of radiation and ejections of plasma streams into space. In a matter of days, they reach the vicinity of the Earth, where they can cause auroras and geomagnetic storms, malfunctions of electronics and electrical systems.

So far, the AR3038 spot, “directed” towards our planet, also poses such a threat. However, it is located just north of the solar equator and moves quite quickly to the opposite side of the star, so in a few more days it should completely disappear from sight.

Meanwhile — and very rapidly — the growth of the spot continues. “Yesterday AR3038 was big. Today it is huge, — writes Spaceweather.com “This fast—growing spot has doubled in size in just 24 hours.” In fact, observations show that between June 20 and 21, the diameter of AR3038 increased to almost 32 thousand kilometers, becoming two and a half times the diameter of the Earth.

However, scientists do not expect dangerous surprises from AR3038. According to them, the energy of this spot is enough for a maximum of an M-class flash. Such outbreaks are not too rare and do not pose a serious threat to objects on the Earth’s surface. The maximum that can be expected is temporary problems with radio communication in the circumpolar regions of the planet and, of course, spectacular auroras.


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