Sunspot AR9393 is now the largest in ten years and is growing fast. The sunspot is presently thirteen times the size of earth. An eruption near the sunspot sent a coronal mass ejection toward earth earlier today. Forecasters estimate a 15 to 25% chance of a severe geomagnetic storm when the material reaches earth, probably on Friday.

The number of sunspots has reached 352, up from 224 earlier today.

The last time a magnetic storm caused severe damage was the memorable March 13, 1989 event, which shut down power grids and blew out huge transformers throughout the northern hemisphere.

The largest sunspot ever recorded was observed in 1947. At its largest, that spot was six times the size of the one now crossing the sun’s surface. However, if the present spot continues to grow at the rate that it has expanded over the past 24 hours, it could also reach historic size.

If a flare should be emitted by the spot, it is likely to result in a severe magnetic storm on earth. The coronal mass ejection observed today is not believed to be extremely powerful, but is likely to cause magnificent auroral activity in the far north.

Warning: Do not attempt to look at the sun without the use of proper equipment. Remember that the sun can seriously damage your eyes in seconds. Galileo burned his eyes looking at the sun. Don’t repeat his mistake. To learn about safe solar observation, click here. All images courtesy NASA.

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