It doubled in size in just one day, and it is likely to grow a bit more. It is also likely to produce solar flares if these sunspots eject material towards earth, we could have aurora displays coming down to lower latitudes than usual, and, despite all the current headlines about this particular sunspot, its not really doing anything different from usual and there isnt any Risk as such to us from it, so what could really happen? How do these sunspots form? Why do they form and what effects do they have? How do they affect us here on earth and is there a connection between sunspots and the prices of wheat? The sunspot that is growing on the sun right now is called active region 3038 or ar3038. It appeared on the sun, tuesday, wednesday ish and it doubled in size in just 24 hours. Sunspots are darker spots that appear on the suns surface, rather the photosphere, and they have a lower temperature than the surrounding regions. This is caused because of entanglement or disturbances. In the magnetic field lines in these regions, sunspots are fairly common and weve seen hundreds of thousands of them through history. They look just like dark spots, but theyre on the sun, so imagine their size. They can be just about anywhere from 20 kilometers, wide to nearly 200 000 kilometers wide. The current sunspot ar 3038 is three times the size of earth. Already sunspots can actually even be seen with the naked eye.
They were first recorded in history in early china in nearly 900 bce, and they have been noted through history, since when they appear on the sun, they can last for a few days to weeks to even months and eventually they do get dispersed and dissipated, because the Magnetic concentrations around these areas eventually overpower the magnetic disturbance that causes these spots. They are linked to the solar cycle and increase in frequency of occurrence as the solar cycle peaks. A solar cycle is on average 11 years long and it is the activity cycle of the sun. It is measured through sunspot activity, solar, maximum and solar minimum are periods of maximum and minimum sunspot numbers on the sun patterns that seem, like solar cycles have been observed for over 300 years and once the solar cycle was established, these cycles have been numbered since 1843.. Solar physicists have also used carbon dating and have determined the sun spots for the past 11 400 years as well. Solar cycles begin at a solar minimum reach solar maximum in a few years and then fall down to minimum again when they come to an end. We are currently in solar cycle 25, which began in december 2019.. Predictions have been made for sunspot activities based on previous data as well, because sunspot activity affects space weather, which in turn affects human activities both on the ground and in space. Solar cycle 24 began in january 2008 and ended in december 2019.
. This previous cycle had a double peak maximum one in 2011 and one in 2014, so about three years and six years into the 11 year cycle at the maximum. There are typically almost about 100, also recorded sunspots. There was a period where there were no sunspots, which was between the years of 1795 to 1800, when astronomers were just beginning to study, sunspots in detail and document them. This was before the solar cycle was calculated and established, but william herschel, the musician astronomer, who discovered uranus, also noticed that there was a steep rise in the prices of wheat. At the same time, in uk he then looked at some past records of sunspot activity and compared all the minima with historical records of wheat prices and noticed that once again, there was a correlation between increased wheat prices and lowered sunspot numbers. So he launched this mini wild goose chase, basically within the astronomy community, but researchers tried to study and explain for nearly a hundred years. Finally, many many studies and nearly a century later researchers concluded that this was just a coincidence. What he observed and an observation bias there actually is no statistically significant correlation between sunspot numbers and rising wheat prices, not always, but typically sunspots produce. Two main effects that we hear on earth are concerned with. The first is a milder effect called a solar flare. A solar flare is a localized eruption in the suns atmosphere, its an emission of energy of electromagnetic radiation.
The energy is emitted in all wavelengths and usually not visible to the naked eye. This radiation travels outwards from the sun and when it comes close to our earth, the atmosphere acts like a protective blanket. All the ionizing radiation is absorbed in the atmosphere and nothing reaches the surface, but this can increase the ionization in the upper atmospheric layers, and this then interferes with our communication, especially radio, because the atmosphere is absorbing energy. It expands a little and this expansion increases drag on low earth orbiting satellites, which means that they would then have to be adjusted later on to prevent orbital decay or spiraling down to earth a more severe effect that sunspots produce is a coronal mass, ejection or cme. This is not just the release of energy, but also matter. There is a large amount of plasma, superheated gas that is released into space and it travels with the solar wind. These are more common during solar maxima. When there are a larger number of strong sunspots coronal mass ejections can impact the earths atmosphere more severely than solar flares. They can cause geomagnetic storms. This plasma is traveling very fast and is preceded by a shock wave which can impact the earths magnetosphere effectively, squishing it on the side that faces the sun and producing a tail on the night side when the magnetosphere realigns again, it disrupts the atmosphere causing geomagnetic storms. These are temporary disturbances in the magnetosphere and can disrupt life on earth.
Historically, theyve caused problems and the most famous geomagnetic storm was the carrington event of september 1859. When the new telegraph network came down, but people were still able to use it in some places because of the magnetic activity, power supply grids were disabled and disrupted through most of the world, and people could see aurorae on the night side all the way down to Mexico, the aurora, is another effect of these solar flares and coronal mass ejections, as these charged ions hit the atmosphere they interact with the existing gases producing different colors, and this is likely the most interesting thing that would come out of the current ar3038 as well. What is being observed is nothing out of the ordinary and sunspots draw like this all the time, and maybe some lucky people are now going to be treated to an unexpected colorful display in the sky.