Massive Sunspot 1302

by VirtualAstro on September 26, 2011

Sunset with the Massive Sun Spot 1302 (Upper left on the Sun) Credit: Adrian Scott

A highly active region on the Sun threatens to deliver powerful geomagnetic storms over the week ahead. Highly energetic solar eruptions are likely heading in our direction to give Earth’s magnetic field a significant glancing blow!

Over the past few days the new sunspot AR1302 has been incredibly active, hurling massive X-class solar flares into space and it will soon face Earth.

The massive sunspot, many times larger than the Earth (see images below) is expected to increase in size and energy, and is expected to release powerful solar flares, sparking strong geomagnetic storms.

Sun Spot AR1302 through the clouds Credit: Tavi Greiner

What does this mean for the Earth and it inhabitants?

The Earth experiences material ejected from the Sun on a daily basis and we are protected by the Earth’s own magnetic field. This is normal and has been happening since the birth of the solar system. But occasionally the Sun erupts and sends vast quantities of solar material our direction in the form of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s).

This can trigger very powerful geomagnetic storms, which can damage satellites in orbit and cause problems for communications and power networks. One positive outcome, though, is amazing displays of aurorae at the poles (Northern and Southern Lights).

Sunspot 1302 is expected to eject material towards Earth over the next few days, so look for news of strong geomagnetic activity and displays of aurorae.

Several observers are reporting that AR1302 is easily visible on the Sun at sunset or sunrise. Never ever look at the sun with your eyes, or any other optical aid! This will damage your eyesight permanently! The Sun should only be viewed using specialist equipment.

For further updates see Spaceweather.com and NASA’ Heliophysics Science Division

Massive Sun Spot 1302 and Earth size Comparison taken with a specialist solar filter Credit: Will Gater www.willgater.com

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