A sunspot, big enough to fit 10 Earths inside of it, known as Active Region 12192 has just aligned with Earth and could cause major problems. This sunspot is the largest to be seen in over 24 years.
The sunspot began facing Earth in October and created six eruptions; however, it did not create any coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The sunspot then disappeared for two weeks before reappearing again early in November. Now the sunspot has rotated again, is fully facing Earth, and is likely to produce CMEs this time.
“This time around, it’s more likely to have some coronal mass ejections associated with it, even though the solar flares might be smaller. We have a good idea, based on the structure of that magnetic field and the sunspot, that it’s very possible that it will create some mid-level flares,” Dr. Holly Gilbert, NASA scientist, said.
These huge solar flares could greatly impact earth and interfere with satellites and power grids. The cost to fix any damaged satellites would be immense. The flares could also affect airlines, astronauts and their working conditions, and electricity grids.
Some researchers are also fearful that the magnetic fields could be so intense that a solar superstorm emerges.
“Such an event could induce huge surges of electrical currents in the ground and in overhead transmission lines, causing widespread power outages and severely damaging critical electrical components. It is only a matter of time before an exceptionally violent solar storm is propelled towards Earth,” Ashley Dale, member of Solarmax, said.
The Carrington Event, the largest superstorm ever recorded, took place in 1859 and released enough energy equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding.
“Such a storm would wreak havoc with communication systems and power supplies, crippling vital services such as transport, sanitation and medicine. Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online. Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanized areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases we thought we had left behind centuries ago soon returning,” Dale added.
NASA scientists have previously predicted that Earth will experience a superstorm as large as the Carrington Event every 150 years. Scientists have also noted Earth is five years overdue for such a storm and there is a 12 percent chance of a superstorm hitting Earth within the next few years.