UPDATE – The huge sunspot formation that emerged on July4 has begun subsiding, and alarmist predictionsthat the sun would “blow up” or emit some sort of giganticflare toward the earth have proved–not unexpectedly–unfounded.

However, one thing is clear: the new solar max does appearto be intensifying after a long period of quiescence, andthe sudden emergence of the huge sunspot did indeed startlesolar scientists.

Spaceweather.com was inundated with emails about thepossibility of a large flare coming out of Sunspot 1024, andhad this to say in response:

“Many readers are writing to ask if this sunspot is going toproduce a major solar storm today, July 7th. Such a stormwas “predicted” by a set of crop circles in England, and thesolar blogosphere has been abuzz with speculation. Theanswer is “no.” A major storm is not in the offing. Sunspot1024 is relatively large, but it does not have the kind ofcomplex magnetic field that poses a threat for majoreruptions. Crop circles, it turns out, are not a useful toolfor forecasting solar activity.”

To set the record straight, the predictions were made bycrop circle observers, not by the formations. They have,however, been suggesting–at least, according to someobservers–that the solar cycle would take a dramatic turn,which appears to have happened, and very unexpectedly.

The July 4 event startled solar scientists, who have beenobserving an unusually quiet sun for two years, and had noreason to expect this sudden change.On the 5th, Spaceweather.comsaid this:

“What a difference 48 hours can make. Only two days ago thesun was blank and calm, displaying the sort of unrelentingquiet we’ve come to expect from the deepest solar minimum ina century. Then, with startling rapidity, sunspot 1024 burstonto the scene: movie. Unlike other recent “sun-specks”,this active region is a full-fledged sunspot group with morethan a dozen planet-sized dark cores, crackling with B- andC-class solar flares.”

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