‘No need to panic,’ experts say

  • A sunspot, called AR3038, has been doubling in size every day for the past three days, a NASA scientist said. As sunspots grow, there’s a higher chance of solar flares.
  • Solar flares can disrupt radio communications and power grids on Earth. But this sunspot is not particularly likely to cause intense flares, experts told USA TODAY.
  • The flares also have little effect on most people on Earth, experts reassured, saying “there is no need to panic.”

A sunspot pointing toward Earth has the potential to cause solar flares, but experts told USA TODAY it’s far from unusual and eased concerns over how flares would affect the Blue Planet.

Active Region 3038, or AR3038, has been growing over the past week, said Rob Steenburgh, acting lead of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Forecast Office. The sunspot’s size and growth rate are fairly normal, he said.

“This is what sunspots do,” he said. “Over time, generally, they’ll grow. They go through stages, and then they decay.”

A PLANET-SIZE SUNSPOT IS POINTED TOWARD EARTH:What happens if there are solar flares?

What are sunspots and solar flares?

Sunspots appear darker because they are cooler than other parts of the sun’s surface, according to NASA. Sunspots are cooler because they form where strong magnetic fields prevent heat within the sun from reaching its surface.

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