Sunspot AR3310, a black area on the sun facing us, has grown large enough that it can be seen without a telescope, and is almost four times the size of earth. South Korean astronomer Bum-Suk Yeom shared a chart of the sunspot, comparing its size to that of earth.
“A giant sunspot is crossing the sun’s disk, and I could see it clearly with solar glasses,” said Yeom, per spaceweather.com, adding: “Caution! You must use eclipse glasses or solar filters to protect your eyes.”
Observers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska were able to photograph the sunspot without the need of glasses on Monday, owing to smoke from neighbouring wildfires acting as a natural filter for the setting sun, according to spaceweather.com.
Looking directly at the sun without protective eyewear, on the other hand, is exceedingly harmful since UV rays from the sun may burn your retinas and cause irreversible damage.
Sunspot – AR3310: What exactly is it?
Experts have been keeping a close eye on this particular sunspot, called AR3310, as it faces the earth.
Sunspots are places where the magnetic fields of the sun are unusually active. As it travelled around the sun’s limb, it emitted a significant solar flare, a massive explosion that shoots energy, light, and high-speed particles into space, as reported by the Business Insider.
That flare was classified as a high-level M-flare, the second highest level on a scale that ranks the power of solar flares.
As noted by spaceweather.com, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors space weather, there is a 20 per cent probability that the point will emit a massive X-class flare while still facing earth.
Can it trigger storms?
A flare of this scale might cause radio blackouts, which would have an impact on aviation, as well as long-lasting radiation storms.
These radiation storms can produce stunning auroras, but they can also disrupt electricity systems and pipelines if the flare is aimed directly at us.
This is the latest in a string of spectacular solar sightings in recent months. The sun is presently at the apex of its 11-year cycle, when sunspots like this one are more likely to form.