HUGE sunspots turning toward Earth

Contributed by
Nov 6, 2011
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As the Sun rotates roughly once per month, we see different features come into view... and the latest is an enormous sunspot system which just came around the limb of the Sun:

[Click to magneticfieldentanglenate.]

That shot was taken by the Mexican "amateur" astronomer César Cantú, and shows the spots -- called Active Region 1339 -- from November 4. The size of this system is staggering; the whole thing is well over 100,000 km (60,000 miles) across, and the dark cores are each about the size of our entire Earth!

They're active, too: On November 3rd they popped off a pretty big X 1.9 class flare:

That image was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory in the ultraviolet, where violent activity is easier to see. NASA made a video of the flare, and you should take a look. It's pretty amazing.

So we have a recipe for some action here: big spots, known to be active, and they're riding the Sun's surface as it rotates them more fully toward us. Over the next week and a half we might get some more flares from them, and maybe some coronal mass ejections... and that means we might get more aurorae. Stay tuned here; if any occur I'll report them as soon as I hear. Also keep your browser pointed at SpaceWeather.com, which always has the latest info as well.

Image credits: César Cantú; NASA/SDO


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- October’s solar blast, seen from the side
- Gorgeous aurorae
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- Gorgeous flowing plasma fountain erupts from the Sun