NASA finds spot on Sun’s surface that may grow into huge solar flare within days

Significant sunspot activity has been observed by NASA scientists, who believe that the colossal patch of darkness on the Sun’s surface could continue to widen.

Sunspots are comparatively cool areas on the solar surface caused by intense magnetic activity. They can give rise to solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

In extreme cases these phenomena, which are thousands of miles wide, can cause geomagnetic storms, leading to power cuts and problems with satellites and radio transmissions.

Astronomy site Space Weather reported the new feature on the Sun’s southern hemisphere, and predicted: "If the region continues to grow, it will likely be assigned an official number (AR2802) later today.

"The sunspot is breaking through the sun's surface right next to a dark magnetic filament.

"Rapid evolution of the sunspot could destabilise the region, causing the filament to erupt."

A solar flare resulting from a sunspot struck the Earth’s atmosphere on Monday, February 8, sparking a G1 class solar storm.

A G1 class solar storm can lead to “weak power grid fluctuations” and can have a “minor impact on satellite operations”. These storms can lead to “power grid fluctuations” and can have a “minor impact on satellite operations”.

Solar storms of this magnitude can also cause spectacular displays of the Northern Lights, and Norwegian photographer Markus Varis snapped a spectacular image of the aurora which looked like rolling green waves in the sky.

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He said: "I have never seen auroras with such incredible shapes before, even after more than 1000 nights of observing. It rocked our socks off.”

It’s rare that coronal mass ejections hit the Earth head-on, but when they do, the effects can be spectacular.

In September 1859, a massive plume of solar plasma caused phenomenon known as The Carrington Event which caused massive damage to the fledgeling telegraph network in Europe and North America.

Some operators reported receiving electric shocks and others reported they could still use their equipment even without the batteries attached.

The Northern Lights were bright enough that people across the northeastern US could read newspapers by their light.

If such an event were to occur today it would cause mayhem, because the modern world is so hugely dependent on electronics.

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