I wrote about the current monster sunspot group in yesterday’s blog, but not until I saw with my own eyes through a filmy layer of clouds this morning did I realize how impressive it really is. The region, named 1654, stretches some 112,000 miles or approximately 14 times the diameter of the Earth across the sun’s northern hemisphere. With a safe solar filter, I could make out the two biggest spots.
Sunspots are dark because they’re several thousand degrees cooler than the sun’s visible surface called the photosphere. The contrast makes them appear greyish-black. Powerful magnetic energy concentrated in sunspots insulates them from the surrounding 11,000 degree heat by blocking the flow of hot gases from the sun’s interior. Less gas means less heat and cooler spots … if you call 8,000 degrees cool.
Although region 1654 continues to flare, no storms are expected to hit Earth for the time being. Just the same, the solar wind has been strong enough on its own in the past 24 hours to ignite northern lights displays across the Arctic. I’ll post updates regularly if a geomagnetic (auroral) storm should blow up.
By the way, ever since I saw the movie October Sky I’ve liked the word ‘prodigious’.