An unusually high number of sunspots are now crossing the solar disk as it rotates. One of these, Sunspot 9393, is a very large formation, and could result in an X-class flare, the most powerful measured.
A sunspot this large has not been observed in many years, and it presents a very dramatic image on the face of the sun. The spot is large enough to comfortably enclose a planet the size of earth many times over.
The existence of this sunspot does not mean that anything is wrong with the sun. However, if the stability of the spot's magnetic field collapses before the sun's rotation moves it out of view, there could be a significant magnetic storm. Such a storm might affect satellites and blank radio signals over a large part of the earth. It will produce spectacular auroras. Depending on the nature of the storm, astronauts aboard the International Space Station may have to remain in shielded areas for a period of time.
The storm will thin the planet's magentic field, and if another solar storm of great magnitude were to follow it within a few days, there might be more significant damage even to power transmission facilities that have been 'hardened' against magnetic storms. However, the chances of this happening are very small.
Click here for a larger image. This is the solar disk as it appeared on the morning of March 28, 2001.
DO NOT attempt to view the solar disk directly!Click here for Spaceweather.com's viewing safety instructions and follow them TO THE LETTER if you wish to observe. If you are not a properly equipped amateur astronomer practiced in solar astronomy, look at the image on this web site instead.
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