KEY POINTS

  • The sunspot known as AR2770 is turning toward Earth's direction
  • An amateur astronomer photographed a light bridge over AR2770
  • The light bridge suggests that the sunspot may emit a solar flare

An amateur astronomer was able to capture an image of a light bridge forming over a sunspot that’s currently facing Earth. The appearance of the solar structure on the sun suggests that the sunspot may explode soon.

The newly identified sunspot on the surface of the sun is called AR2770. On Thursday, it was reported that the sunspot was turning toward Earth’s direction. Since sunspots are known to emit solar flares, forecasting site SpaceWeather.com noted that Earth may get hit by a solar emission within the next couple of days.

Recently, Howard Eskildsen, an amateur astronomer from Florida, was able to observe AR2770 from his backyard observatory in Ocala. While viewing the sun, he took photos of the sunspot. He was able to catch a glimpse of AR2770 using a special filter.

After reviewing his photos, Eskildsen noticed a structure forming over the sunspot. According to the astronomer, the structure is a light bridge, which is known to cross the gap of sunspots.

“I used a violet Calcium-K filter, which highlights the bright magnetic froth around the sunspot group as well as the light bridge cutting the main spot in two,” Eskildsen explained.

Based on the photos, SpaceWeather.com estimated that the light bridge spans about 5,000 miles long, which is roughly equal to the diameter of Mars.

Although the exact nature of light bridges is still unclear, the space weather forecasting site noted that they could be an indicator of a sunspot’s status. Some scientists believe light bridges are formed as the magnetic fields on the sun’s surface intersect and reconnect, which is the same process that causes the explosion of solar flares. This could mean that a solar flare may erupt from the sunspot soon.

If a solar flare hits Earth, it could cause various electrical issues.

“Strong solar storms can cause fluctuations of electrical currents in space and energize electrons and protons trapped in Earth's varying magnetic field,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement. “These disturbances can cause problems with radio communications, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), power grids, and satellites.”

Sunspot The X-class solar flare erupted from the area around sunspot AR 1943. Photo: NASA/SDO