Sunspot AR1944 is the Biggest in Years: Possiblitliy of Flares Increasing Due to its Instability

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AR1944 photo: Rocky Raybell from Washington

One of the biggest sunspots for many years is making its way across the sun disc. As it moves across, Earth becomes more and more likely to be in the firing line of any flares that are thrown off by it.

The massive spot has multiple cores, and many of them are big enough to swallow the Earth. The largest is three times the size of the Earth.

AR1944 has been quiet for a few days, the last activity was an M4 explosion on January 4th. This flare sent out a coronal mass ejection that will deliver a glancing blow to Earth today and tomorrow, there should be some decent auroras in polar regions when it arrives.

The Sun is surrounded by a corona, (latin for crown). It’s made of charged particles referred to as plasma. A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is a massive blast of plasma and magnetic particles. It could be described as the force 9 gale of solar winds. It occurs when a sun spot flares and forces the corona upwards and outwards, propelling the plasma into space. It’s the highly charged particles in the plasma that causes aurorae when it collides with the Earths magnetic field.

This field, the magnetosphere, is dynamic, and a hit from a powerful CME compresses the magnetosphere on the day lit side of the Earth. The ripple effect changes the shape of the magnetosphere elongating it on the dark side of Earth. When it reconnects, recoils back, it releases a truly massive amount of energy, and it’s this energy that can cause disruptions to electrical equipment such as computers and transformers here on Earth.

AR1944 has an unstable magnetic field. It has been classified as having a beta-gamma-delta magnetic field and these fields are prone to instability.

NOAA and NASA are warning that flares are in the offing and have estimated a 75% chance of an M-class and 30% chance of an X-class today. The more unstable the magnetic field of AR1944 gets, the higher the chance of a flare occurring.

The magnetic classification of sunspots is complex, but you can get a good explanation at spaceweatherlive.com.

Todays sunspot number is 245. There is a coronal hole on the Earth side of the Sun and the solar wind blowing from it should reach Earth on 12-13th January.

Hattip: Patrick Geryl

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Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.

Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!

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