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A giant sunspot the size of 3 Earths is facing us right now

A sunspot nearly triple the size of Earth is within firing range of our planet, and may send out medium-class flares in the near future.

"Yesterday, sunspot AR3038 was big. Today, it's enormous," Tony Phillips, the author of SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab), wrote on Wednesday (June 22).

"The fast-growing sunspot has doubled in size in only 24 hours," Phillips added, noting that the magnetic field surrounding it has the potential to blast M-class solar flares toward our planet.

The sun's wrath: Worst solar storms in history

The sun has numerous sunspots on this June 22, 2022 image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams)
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Should the sunspot blast out a coronal mass ejection, or CME, of charged particles that faces our planet, it's possible those particles will interact with our magnetic field and create colorful lights in our atmosphere, known as auroras.

However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Space Weather Prediction Center (opens in new tab), which monitors solar flares and other outbursts, has not issued any current aurora alerts for Earth.

The sun has been particularly active this spring, sending out many M-class and X-class (the strongest class) flares as activity grows in the regular 11-year cycle of sunspots.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this view of a long-duration solar flare on June 13, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/SDO)

Typically, CMEs are harmless, perhaps producing brief radio blackouts along with the colorful auroras. On rare occasions, CMEs can disturb essential infrastructure like satellites or power lines, however.

That's why both NASA and NOAA monitor the sun all the time. Additionally, NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission is flying very close to the sun periodically to learn more about the origins of sunspots and to better understand the space weather the sun creates.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.