Huge black dot four times the size of the Earth has appeared on the sun
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A black spot four times the size of the Earth has appeared on the surface of the Sun.
The appearance of a black spot is rarely a good sign, just ask any pirate.
While these particular spots may not themselves be a problem, they could be a harbinger of something more dangerous.
It's certainly a little unsettling - it's the literal sun - it's not like we can just go up there and have a little look.
That being said, the mark is in fact a sun spot, an area of the surface which is cooler than the surrounding areas of the Sun. Sun spots are a fairly regular phenomenon as the enormous amount of energy within the Sun can make it very volatile, and can release solar flares into space.
This one is reportedly big enough to see with the naked eye, though it would not be a good idea to put that theory to the test.
Sun spots are sometimes connected to solar flares, colossal bursts of photons from the Sun's surface out into space. The larger ones can be many times the size of Earth, and have the potential to interfere with electronic devices. This means a particularly unlucky solar flare could lead to worldwide blackouts.
A solar flare would have to be on the side of the Sun facing Earth to pose this kind of risk. Sun spots can be a sign of a solar flare as they are an indication that one part of the Sun's surface is particularly volatile.
The largest flares are called X-Class flares, and are truly enormous.
"The biggest X-class flares are by far the largest explosions in the solar system and are awesome to watch," NASA has said.
"Loops tens of times the size of Earth leap up off the sun's surface when the sun's magnetic fields cross over each other and reconnect. In the biggest events, this reconnection process can produce as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs."
The sun spot has already released one solar flare, though of the smaller M-1 class. This is the second-largest size of solar flare, though there is a chance that the spot could released an X-1 flare towards Earth.
This particular spot is viewable for people living in New York, New Jersey Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately this is due to a screen of smoke caused by wildfires which are currently burning in Canada.
The fires have seen more than 30,000 people evacuated from their homes, with some 84 separate fires are still burning.
Despite recent heavy rain in the region, they are expected to continue for several more days. Heavy rain following a period of extreme heat can also pose an increased risk of flash floods as scorched and dried out ground doesn't absorb water as effectively as damp or wet ground.