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Out Of Mind » SOLAR & PLANETARY ALERTS & INFO » ATMOSPHERIC CHANGES » Giant sunspot that’s SIX TIMES the diameter of Earth has formed in less than 48 hours – and could lead to solar flares

Giant sunspot that’s SIX TIMES the diameter of Earth has formed in less than 48 hours – and could lead to solar flares

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Giant sunspot that’s SIX TIMES the diameter of Earth has formed in less than 48 hours – and could lead to solar flares

A giant sunspot that is at least six times thediameter of Earth has formed on the Sun in less than 48 hours, Nasa has announced.

Sunspots are dark spots on the surface of the Sun which appear as
turbulent magnetic fields in its surface rearrange and realign.

The massive sunspot, which formed over the course of Tuesday and
Wednesday, quickly evolved into an unstable configuration, and could
lead to solar flares, which can interrupt our radio communications.

Rapid formation: The bottom two black spots on the sun, known as
sunspots, appeared quickly over the course of February 19-20. These two
sunspots are part of the same system and are over six Earths across

Nasa scientists spotted the huge sunspot forming through instruments
on the agency’s Solar DynamicsObservatory, one of several spacecraft
that monitor the Sun’s weather.

‘Over the course of February 19-20, 2013, scientists watched a giant
sunspot form in under 48 hours,’ said Karen Fox, a spokesman for Nasa.

‘It has grown to over six Earth diameters across but its full extent
is hard to judge since the spot lies on a sphere not a flat disk.’

The sunspot identified by Nasa is formed of several dark blemishes on
the surface on the Sun which have evolved rapidly over the past couple
of days.


The Solar Dynamics Observatory contains a suite of instruments that
will provide observations leading to a more complete understanding
of the solar dynamics that drive variability in the Earth’s environment.

This set of instruments:

  • Measures the extreme ultraviolet spectral irradiance of the Sun at a rapid cadence
  • Measures the Doppler shifts due to oscillation velocities over the entire visible disk
  • Makes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible disk
  • Makes images of the chromosphere and inner corona at several temperatures at a rapid cadence
  • Makes those measurements over a significant portion of a solar cycle
    to capture the solar variations that may exist in different time
    periods of a solar cycle

Sunspots are caused by intense magnetic activity and are actually
cooler than the rest of the Sun, which leaves them clearly visible as
dark spots in the photosphere.

In reality, if the sunspot were isolated from the surrounding photosphere it would be brighter than an electric arc.

Ms Fox added: ‘The spot quickly evolved into what’s called a delta
region, in which the lighter areas around the sunspot, the penumbra,
exhibit magnetic fields that point in the opposite direction of those
fields in the center, dark area.

‘This is a fairly unstable configuration that scientists know can
lead to eruptions of radiation on the sun called solar flares.’

The observation comes as the Sun is gearing up for the most active phase of its 11-year solar cycle.

The Sun’s magnetic field lines are the most distorted at this time
due to the magnetic field on the solarequator rotating at a slightly
faster pace than at the solar poles.

This causes large numbers of sunspots appear, and the Sun’s irradiance output grows by about 0.1 per cent.

The increased energy output of solar maxima can impact global climate
and recent studies have shown some correlation with regional weather

The solar cycle takes an average of about 11 years to go from one
solar maximum to the next, with an observed variation in duration of 9
to 14 years for any given solar cycle.

Large solar flares often occur during a maximum. For example, the
Solar storm of 1859 struck the Earth with such intensity the northern
lights could be seen as far south as Rome.

The last solar maximum was in 2000. In 2006 NASA initially expected a
solar maximum in 2010 or 2011, and thought that it could be the
strongest since 1958.

However, more recent projections say the maximum should arrive in autumn of 2013 and be the smallest sunspot cycle since 1906.

#Daily Mail

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