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Huge Sunspot Pops Up Over Weekend

January 24, 2011

Space Weather reports:

Sunspot complex 1147-1149 poses a slight threat for M-class solar flares.

Over the weekend a huge sunspot broke through the stellar surface. AR1149 popped up right beside existing sunspot AR1147, more than doubling the sunspot number and forming the largest active region of the New Year.

The active region is crackling with C-class solar flare, and even stronger M-flares are possible according to NOAA forecasters. Any eruptions in the days ahead will probably not be Earth-directed, however, because the sun’s rotation is turning the complex away from our planet. (That’s some good news:)

Scientists classify solar flares according to their x-ray brightness in the wavelength range 1 to 8 Angstroms. There are 3 categories: X-class flares are big; they are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.

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