Thursday, May 10, 2012

Monster Sunspot 1476 Poses Serious Threat For Earth-Directed X-Class Solar Flares!

Huge sunspot AR1476 is crackling with M-class solar flares and appears to be on the verge of producing something even stronger. The sunspot's 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field harbors energy for X-class flares, the most powerful kind. Earth is entering the line of fire as the sunspot rotates across the face of the sun. 

This morning, May 10th around 0418 UT, sunspot 1476 unleashed an impulsive M5-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash:

Apparently, the almost-X class explosion did not hurl a significant CME toward Earth. NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of more M-class flares and a 10% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.

According to the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center and the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, sunspot AR1476 is over 60,000 miles wide, or a dozen times wider than our entire planet, and poses a serious threat for Earth-directed solar flares in the next several days. AR1476 will come into direct alignment with the Earth in a few days and any coronal mass ejection would be sure to produce geomagnetic activity.

This extremely active region on the sun has already produced several M-class solar flares, and the threat exists for X-class flares, the most powerful kind. If this were to happen, it could cause serious problems on Earth with a direct impact of a coronal mass ejection (CME). So far, none of the M-class flares have been very powerful, nor have they been Earth-directed and have only produced glancing blows of coronal material so far. states that viewers have been able to see the sunspot on the surface of the sun without the aid of a solar telescope. Under the right conditions, the sun is occasionally dimmed to human visibility and AR1476 is visible.

This morning the sight of the majestic Sunspot AR 1476 was great as the Sun was rising alogside the Basilica of Superga! Canon Eos 5D Mark II; Focal lenght:700mm; Exp: 1/8000 and 1/125 sec; F/40; ISO:50

Potential impacts to Earth from a strong geomagnetic storm include radio blackouts, interruptions to satellite communications, and in the worst case scenario, damage to power grids. One potential benefit from strong solar flares is for sky watchers, as it often causes the aurora borealis to be visible in mid and southern latitudes, which is not typical.

Related: The Sun-Earth Connection