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Huge sunspot threatens disruption
BY MARK ARMSTRONG
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 10 May 2012


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SOHO-large-sunspot SOHO image of the large sunspot. Image: ESA/NASA.

One of the largest sunspot groups for some time rotated into view on the Sun over the weekend including the huge spot AR1476, which is already unleashing M-class flares and lots of radio activity. There is a chance that it will produce X-class flares, the strongest type, which can cause disruption to communications here on Earth and more welcoming, beautiful aurora displays. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) observers and forecasters are continuing to monitor the huge spot as it continues its transit across the solar disc.

AR1476 is over 100,000 kilometres from end and end and there are at least three other smaller, associated spots which are larger than Earth. The group is so large that it has been reported by naked-eye observers when close to local, smog-filled horizons (remember, it's best not to view the Sun directly at any time, even if it appears to be dimmed by atmospheric conditions as permanent damage to your eyesight may result) and solar observers should be able to easily observe and secure some great images if the seemingly permanent cloud cover across the UK ever lifts. The forecast is a bit more promising for this coming weekend.

Astronomy Now would be pleased to receive any sketches or images at gallery2012(at)astronomynow(dot)com. Keep up to date with events here and at http://spaceweather.com. For an explanation of the classification of solar flares visit http://spaceweather.com/glossary/flareclasses.html

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