Scientists have observed several signs that the solar maximum could arrive sooner and be more powerful than expected. One of these signs is the emergence of an enormous sunspot archipelago on the sun’s surface.
Sunspots are dark patches that indicate regions of intense magnetic activity on the sun. They are often the source of solar flares, which are bursts of light and radiation, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are eruptions of plasma and charged particles.
These phenomena can affect Earth’s atmosphere, radio signals, power grids, satellites and space missions.
The first sunspot group, named AR3490, rotated onto the sun’s nearside on Nov. 18 over the star’s northeastern shoulder. The dark patch was quickly followed by another sunspot group, AR3491, which trailed in its wake, Spaceweather.com reported.
In total, the massive collection of sunspots spans around 125,000 miles (200,000 kilometers) across, which is more than 15 times wider than Earth, according to Spaceweather.com.
Scientists are monitoring the sunspot archipelago closely as it rotates across the sun’s face. They expect more solar activity from this region in the coming days and weeks.
The sunspot archipelago is one of the largest and most active sunspot groups ever observed, and it could signal that the sun is gearing up for its explosive peak.