Scientists have discovered two massive sunspots so big that they could change how the Sun vibrates. The sunspots in question are currently on our star’s far side. However, they will soon rotate into view, and if they erupt while facing the Earth, we could find ourselves dealing with massive solar flares or coronal mass ejections.
Two massive sunspots will face the Earth soon
Massive sunspots like these form on the Sun at places where magnetic fields on the star are overly strong. These dark blotches, as they appear when observing them, are often cooler than the surrounding areas. That’s because these magnetic fields prevent the heat from reaching the surface, causing the sunspot to form.
However, when sunspots become too large, they often erupt, sending out a solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME). These events can cause significant space weather effects, including global magnetic storms if they hit the Earth. The discovery of these two massive sunspots is notable because they could cause quite a ruckus if they erupt while facing the Earth.
Earlier this year, we saw a massive solar eruption leading to stellar energy being ejected 2.2 million miles into space. Massive plasma eruptions of that sort could wreak havoc on the satellites we use daily. And, if a geomagnetic storm were to form, it could cause issues with GPS and other systems, too. Both these massive sunspots have that kind of potential, too, Spaceweather.com reports.
Studying the Sun
Normally, scientists use specially designed telescopes to study the Sun’s surface and spot sunspots. However, when they are facing away from the Earth, like these massive sunspots are, studying them requires more scientific measures. Instead, scientists use the doppler effect to measure changes in the frequency of light, sound, or any other wave that the Sun produces.
What makes these two new sunspots so intriguing, though, is that they’re not only massive sunspots, but they’re so large, that they’re changing the way that the Sun vibrates. Scientists study the vibrations in the Sun in a similar way that seismologists study the vibrations on Earth. It can help us better understand our star and give us insight into what is happening in different parts of the Sun.
With these two massive sunspots changing how our star is vibrating, it is worrying to think about what kind of chaos they could cause when they erupt.
More coverage: See a massive plasma cloud spewing from the Sun.