Largest Sunspot in Decades Wowing Astronomers!


Just last weekend, NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) caught sight of a gigantic dark blemish marring the surface of the Sun. This blemish, called a “sun spot,” is the largest seen in this current solar cycle.

If you have a pair of safe solar glasses go get ’em and have a look. Its covering a surface area that could swallow 10 Earth’s whole! The new sunspot in question is nearly 80,0000 miles across, according to NASA. Massive sunspots like these are so large that they can be noticed by the naked eye, and were even regularly recorded by ancient Chinese astronomers by 28 BC.

This way, we know that this is not the largest sunspot ever seen. While ancient records do not indicate size with accuracy, the largest sunspot on modern record (in 1947) was almost three times as large as this one.

Still, the current sunspot, labeled AR 12192, is the largest seen since before 2008, when the current solar cycle – the periodic change in the Sun’s activity and appearance – began.

Doug Biesecker, a researcher at the National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction Center, told The Washington Post that he’s certain that “this is the largest sunspot group since November of 1990” as well.

So just what is a sunspot anyways? Experts have long theorized that sunspots are parts of the Sun’s surface that have been broken by intense and complex inner magnetic felids poking through. The areas, markedly cooler than the rest of the surface, appear darker. They also are the sites of solar eruptions such as flares or coronal mass ejections. Just this past week the current massive spot produced three notable solar fares.

Nature World News reported earlier this year how experts are still struggling to explain how exactly sunspots work. The rolling motion of plasma contained by magnetisms creates a coil-like structure along the umbra and penumbra of a spots darker regions. This structure can buck and shift, temporarily breaking through the Sun’s surface to release plasma jets and brief-but-powerful eruptions.  Adapted: Nature World News


Massive Sunspot Imaged from Arizona

AR 2192: Giant on the Sun Image Credit & Copyright: Randall Shivak and Alan Friedman (Averted Imagination)

Explanation: As you (safely!) watched the progress of yesterday’s partial solar eclipse, you probably also spotted a giant sunspot group. Captured in this sharp telescopic image from October 22nd the complex AR 2192 is beautiful to see, a sprawling solar active region comparable in size to the diameter of Jupiter. Like other smaller sunspot groups, AR 2192 is now crossing the Earth-facing side of the Sun and appears dark in visible light because it is cooler than the surrounding surface.

Still, the energy stored in the region’s twisted magnetic fields is enormous and has already generated powerful explosions, including two X-class solar flares this week. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) associated with the flares have not affected planet Earth, so far. The forecast for further activity from AR 2192 is still significant though, as it swings across the centre of the solar disk and Earth-directed CMEs become possible. Credit: APOD


Sunspot Mossaic

“Been a while since I got to look at the sun in white light – but I am pleased to have observed this spot with my own eyes.” Credit: April, c/o Bedfordshire Astrophotography & Photography


 Sunspot Image From Shevill Mathers (Tasmania)


2 pictures of the sun taken in Hydrogen alpha wavelengths which shows the massive filaments and a prominence on the sun’s edge about 7 o’clock position.

Big Sunspots Compared

Taken by Hagan Hensley on October 22, 2014 @ San Antonio, TX

To put AR2192 in context, spaceweather.com reader Hagan Hensley of San Antonio TX placed it beside pictures of two other significant sunspots from the years 2001 and 1947:

“Using Photoshop, I created this composite image of three big sunspots: AR2192 (2014), AR9393 (2001) and the great sunspot of 1947, the largest ever recorded,” explains Hensley. “Positions on the solar disk shifted somewhat to avoid overlap.”

Spaceweather.com didn’t exist in 1947, so we’re not sure what happened then. In 2001, however, giant sunspot AR9393 was fully covered by the web site. In March of that year, the sunspot unleashed multiple X-flares, caused radio blackouts and radiation storms, and sparked red auroras seen as far south as Mexico. “Good thing these aren’t all on the sun at once!” says Hensley. Indeed.   

STOP PRESS: 26 October 8.30am AEST Solar activity continues to be at high levels this weekend as giant sunspot AR2192 crackles with strong flares, including two X-class explosions in less than 24 hours. The flares are causing intermittent HF radio blackouts around the day side of Earth. However, no major CMEs are yet heading in our direction. Visit http://spaceweather.com for more information and updates.


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