Giant Sunspot Seen Through Dusty Skies

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The enormous sunspot region responsible for all the recent fuss and flares was easily visible from Earth yesterday… easily visible, that is, with the help of a natural filter provided by a New Mexico dust storm!

Photographer David Tremblay captured this image on March 7 through the dust-laden sky of Alto, New Mexico. Active Region 1429 can be seen on the upper right side of the Sun’s disk. Many times the size of Earth, this sunspot region has already erupted with several X-class solar flares and sent numerous CMEs our way — with potential for more to come!

“Blowing dust from the Tularosa Basin is so very dense that observing the sun was possible with the naked eye this evening,” noted David on SpaceWeather.com, where you can see more of his solar photos taken about the same time.

The image above was captured at 560mm with a Canon MKlll ESO1D.

View more of David’s photography here.

Image © David Tremblay. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Sun Releases a Powerful X5 Flare

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Active Region 1429 unleashed an X5.4-class solar flare early this morning at 00:28 UT, as seen in this image by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (AIA 304). The eruption belched out a large coronal mass ejection (CME) into space but it’s not yet known exactly how it will impact Earth — it may just be a glancing blow.

Solar flares are categorized by a scale according to their x-ray brightness. X is the strongest class, followed by M and then C-class. Within each class the numbers 1 through 9 subdivide the flares’ intensity.

A run-in with an X5-class flare is a major geomagnetic event that can cause radio blackouts on Earth and disrupt satellite operations, as well as intensify auroral activity.

The GOES satellite data for the March 7 flare is below:

The CME is expected to impact Earth sometime on the 8th or 9th. Check back here or at Spaceweather.com for updates on the storm (and any subsequent aurora photos!)

Also, check out the video below, assembled by the SDO team. Just after the X5.4-class flare another smaller X1-class flare occurred, sending a visible wave cross the Sun.


Image courtesy NASA, SDO and the AIA science team. And thanks to Camilla Corona SDO for all the updates!