Monster Sunspot Fires Off Powerful Solar Flares

Posted on May 11, 2012

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A huge sunspot that dwarfs the Earth is unleashing a series of powerful solar flares as it

IN SPACE - JANUARY 23:  In this handout from t...

moves across the surface of the sun, NASA scientists say.

The sunspot AR 1476 was detected by space telescopes on May 5. The huge sunspot is 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, so large that when it was first seen in views from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, mission scientists dubbed it a “monster sunspot.”

Earlier this week, space weather scientists predicted the sunspot would erupt with powerful solar flares, and those predictions have since come true. So far, the sunspot has fired off several flares, including a strong solar storm early Thursday (May 10).

“Solar activity has been at high levels for the past 24 hours with multiple M-class solar flares observed,” stated an update Thursday from the Space Weather Prediction Center, a joint service of NOAA and the National Weather Service. Sunspot region AR 1476 was responsible for nearly all of the sun’s storm activity, center officials said.

On Thursday, sunspot AR 1476 unleashed a powerful flare at 12:18 a.m. EDT (0418 GMT) that registered as a class M5.7 eruption. M-class solar flares are medium-strength sun storms that can still unleash powerful blasts of radiation and magnetic solar plasma. So far, the sunspot has not triggered huge explosions from the sun, which scientists call coronal mass ejections.

Live Science

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