Yesterday, skywatchers across large parts of North America were able to see the moon partially slide in front of the sun. Areas in Alaska and Canada saw 70% of the sun covered up. While to the south, just 12% was covered up in Florida.
Those of you with solar filters on your binoculars or telescope noticed something else. A huge sunspot located just to the left of center on the sun’s surface.
Here’s the full-size photograph from James W. Young (via Spaceweather.com) of the solar eclipse and the giant sunspot.
That’s sunspot AR2192, the largest in decades
AR2192 has been busy. Since the week started, 27 C-class flares, 9 M-Class flares and 2 X-class flares have been shot out of the sunspot according to Spaceweather.com. X-class flares are the biggest and have the potential to affect Earth.
Right now, the sunspot stretches about 80,000 miles across. To put that in perspective, it’s nearly as big as Jupiter. Insane.
On Wednesday, an X1.6 flare exploded outwards. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory was on hand to capture the eruption. Check out the image below.
Image credit: NASA/SDO
So far, the giant sunspot hasn’t erupted any major solar flares our way. The biggest concern would come from any coronal mass ejections (CME) aimed at Earth. Solar flares and CMEs come from magnetic eruptions, but they don’t necessarily happen at the same time. A solar flare can happen without a CME following. The opposite is also true.
CMEs pose the greatest concern to power grids. They are also responsible for the incredible aurora displays at high latitudes.
Scientists will be keeping a close eye on the sunspot over the next few days. Spaceweather.com reports NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of X-flares over the next 24 hours.