Solar storm threat for Earth continues amid NOAA satellites detecting sunspot decay

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Yesterday, it was reported that a highly unstable sunspot, AR3311, which was responsible for an X-class solar flare eruption last week, has now entered the full view of Earth. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite data showed a high chance of more flares erupting, with a possibility of another X-class flare explosion. However, today’s data shows that the sunspot’s magnetic field might be decaying and it lowers the risk of an intense flare eruption. But how does that affect the fears of solar storms for our planet? Not by much.

As per a report by, “NOAA forecasters have decreased the odds of an X-class flare from 30% (yesterday) to 20% (today). This is in response to decay in the magnetic field of sunspot AR3311, currently the biggest threat for flares on the solar disk. 20% is still plenty, though, for an X-class explosion”.

The calm before the storm

It has been nearly 48 hours since the sunspot has been calm. But it could be possible that this is merely the calm before the storm. Sunspots are notorious for storing the energy calmly and then exploding either in one go or through a spell of continuous eruptions. What that means is we are not safe till the sunspot moves away from the Earth-facing side of the Sun.

The sunspot is still powerful enough to deliver a highly charged coronal mass ejection (CME) that can produce even G5-class geomagnetic storms on Earth. Such storms hitting the Earth can damage satellites, disrupt GPS, mobile networks, and internet connectivity, cause power grid failure, and even impact ground-based electronics.

Know how NOAA monitors the Sun

While many space agencies from NASA with its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keep track of Sun-based weather phenomena, one that particularly stands out is the DSCOVR satellite by NOAA. The satellite became operational in 2016 and tracks different measurements of the Sun and its atmosphere including temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation, and frequency of the solar particles. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared.

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