Sunspot that turned away from Earth is returning bigger and angrier, warn scientists

In another week, the sunspot might be staring right at us
Ameya Paleja
Solar flare.

Pitris/iStock 

A giant sunspot that is currently facing away from the Earth is changing how the Sun vibrates, Newsweek reported.

Sunspots are areas of intense magnetic fields on the Sun that temporarily halts the process of convection on the Sun. As a result, the area of this high magnetic intensity does not receive the churning charged gases from the Sun's interior, and its temperature drops. This makes it appear a bit darker when compared to the rest of the Sun, where the magnetic field is not that intense. This is why it is called a sunspot.

Sunspots are a regular phenomenon on the giant star, but scientists have observed that their numbers increase during the active phase of the Solar cycle. Over the past few months, many sunspots have been seen as the Sun is reaching the peak of its solar cycle. Some of these sunspots gave out solar flares and let out charged particles from the Sun, while some like AR 3088, skipped our gaze to come back stronger.

Sunspot AR3088

Last month, sunspot AR3088 caught the notice of solar scientists with its rotating magnetic field. As we reported then, the poles of a sunspot are aligned +/-, which means that the positive pole is on the left while the negative is on the right of the sunspot.

In the case of AR3088, the poles have rotated by 90 degrees such that the positive pole is on top while the negative pole is on the bottom. Scientists were not entirely sure why this was observed, but later as the Sun rotated, the sunspot too turned away from Earth.

Now according to Spaceweather.com, Sunspot AR3088 is now bigger and angrier than before and will be staring at Earth about a week from now. On September 5, it gave off a solar energy particle (SEP) that was one of the biggest, if not the largest, storms on record since the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Solar Orbiter was launched in 2020.

Yesterday, we reported how Solar Orbiter was hit by a mass ejection during its scheduled Venus flyby, and the orbiter finds itself once again in the path of a solar storm, which has emanated from sunspot AR3088.

More sunspots change the Sun's vibrations

It is not just a single sunspot, though, that is active on the far side of the Sun. Scientists are expecting at least one more sunspot on the other side, and together they are literally changing how the Sun vibrates, Newsweek said in its report.

Sunspots can be observed from the Earth using specially designed telescopes. However, these telescopes can only see the side facing the Earth. So, scientists use the vibrations from the Sun to determine what might be happening on the other side. Called helioseismology, the method is similar to how scientists use sound waves to study the Earth's interiors.

Unlike Earth, though, the Sun is a hot ball of gas, so sound waves can travel much more easily through it and can be read on the other side as well. The only problem is that sound cannot be detected on Earth, so scientists measure small changes in the light given off by the Sun to detect these vibrations. As of now, the sunspots on the far side have caused major changes to vibrations recorded on Earth, and we will have to wait and see what these sunspots spew out in the days to come.

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