NASA has discovered a massive sunspot that is larger than the Earth itself. While not dangerous, sunspots can cause solar flares which could damage satellites.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has captured footage of a massive sunspot whose core is larger than the Earth.
This particular sunspot, classified as Active Region 12665, is the only sunspot cluster currently present on the sun. It is also the first spot that has appeared in the past two days. This sunspot appears to be growing over time, but there's no telling how large it will get or when it will disperse.
Sunspots look like dark inky blots on the surface of the sun. In reality, they are regions of the sun that are composed of magnetic fields. These magnetic fields are a bit cooler than the rest of the sun's surface which is why they appear darker than the rest of the sun. Of course, "cooler" is a relative term. The average temperature of the sun's surface is roughly 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunspots are about 4,000 degrees cooler, clocking in at about 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their temperature isn't the only deceptive thing about sunspots. In comparison to the sun itself, they appear to be small, but, in reality, they can be quite large. The one that NASA observed has a core which is actually larger than the Earth itself.
On occasion, sunspots can cause solar flares, which are bursts of radiation from the sun's surface. These flares aren't dangerous, but they can cause problems for satellites and other technology. NASA has said it is possible that Active Region 12665 might cause solar flares, but it is too soon to tell. Even if it does cause solar flares, there is no guarantee that they would disrupt satellites.
Sunspots can occur at any time, but they are less common during the sun's low activity period which is expected to occur sometime in 2019 or 2020.