Sometimes sunspots end up as eruptions that release intense bursts of energy or even magnetically charged particles from the Sun, which can head straight toward the Earth. These outbursts are called solar flares and are responsible for weather in space, just like the weather on Earth.
Astronomers keep an eye out for sunspots in their bid to predict how space weather can be. At lower intensities, solar flares are rather harmless. However, at higher intensities, they are capable of disrupting satellite-based radio communication and navigation services and even damaging electrical grids.
Currently, sunspot AR3085 has all their attention since it has been growing in size over the past few days. From a mere blip, the sunspot has grown to a size that is much larger than a planet in the Solar System and has been releasing some solar flares, on and off. Classified as C-class flares, these are still relatively low-intensity flares, but with the sunspot growing larger, the intensity of the flares could also increase.
High-intensity solar flares can take down satellites, too, and give very little warning or reaction time for satellite companies to take evasive action. Scientists are working on an algorithm that can help predict solar flares up to 48 hours in advance but that’s work still in progress.
As of now, sunspot AR3085 poses no grave danger to spacecraft. Luckily for humans and other animals, the atmosphere provides a security blanket against the energized particles and radiation coming from the Sun. What we get instead are beautiful auroras that light up the night sky, sometimes in the lower southern and eastern territories of the U.S.