AR1654: A monster sunspot aiming our way

January 14, 2013 by Jason Major, Universe Today
Active Region 1654 on the Sun’s western limb, seen by SDO on Jan. 11. Credit: NASA/SDO/HMI team. Diagram by J. Major.

Like an enormous cannon that is slowly turning its barrel toward us, the latest giant sunspot region AR1654 is steadily moving into position to face Earth, loaded with plenty of magnetic energy to create M-class flares—moderate-sized outbursts of solar energy that have the potential to cause brief radio blackouts on Earth and, at the very least, spark bright aurorae around the upper latitudes.

According to SpaceWeather.com, AR1654 "could be the sunspot that breaks the recent lengthy spell of calm around our planet."

The image above, captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory earlier today, shows the structure of AR1654 upon the Sun's photosphere—its light-emitting "surface" layer. Stretching many tens of thousands of miles, this magnetic solar blemish easily dwarfs our entire planet. And it's not just a prediction that this sunspot will unleash a flare—it already has.

AR1654 came around the limb of the sun crackling with activity. Shortly after the probability of AR1654 releasing a flare was raised to 50% it did just that, letting loose with a burst of that was observed by SDO's multi-channel cameras. Watch the video below:

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Peaking at 9:11 UTC, this M1-class flare won't have much more effect on Earth than perhaps some radio and GPS interference and maybe increased auroral activity. But AR1654 is still evolving and growing… and moving to face us.

In the meantime, solar astronomers and observatories like are keeping an ever-watchful eye on this magnetic monster.

Keep up with the latest news here on Universe Today, on the SDO mission site and on spaceweather.com.

UPDATE 1/12: According to the NOAA, AR1654 has a 5% chance of producing an X-class flare, based on its current and alignment.

Explore further: Earth-facing sunspot doubles in size

Related Stories

Earth-facing sunspot doubles in size

February 13, 2012

The latest sunspot region to traverse the face of the Sun has nearly doubled in size as it aims Earthward, as seen in the animation above from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Click image to play the animation.)

Sun releases a powerful X5 flare

March 7, 2012

Active Region 1429 unleashed an X5.4-class solar flare early this morning at 00:28 UT, as seen in this image by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (AIA 304). The eruption belched out a large coronal mass ejection (CME) ...

Space Image: Sunspots and solar flares

March 21, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of an M7.9 class flare on March 13, 2012 at 1:29 p.m. EDT. It is shown here in the 131 Angstrom wavelength, a wavelength particularly good for seeing ...

Emerging sunspot releases mid-level solar flare

August 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- On August 17, the sun emitted a mid-level flare, peaking at 9:02 PM EDT. Solar flares are gigantic bursts of radiation that cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to harm humans on the ground, however when strong ...

Sun emit a mid-level flare

November 13, 2012

(Phys.org)—On Nov. 13, 2012, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:04 p.m. EST.

Recommended for you

Ceres image: The lonely mountain

August 25, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers).

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Dawn spacecraft sends sharper scenes from Ceres

August 25, 2015

The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the small world's features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres' tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.