posted at 21:00
Author: Space.com
Giant sunspot may cause massive solar storms
The largest sunspot to appear on Earth's nearest star in more than two decades is once again pointed at the planet, and it will likely kick-start solar storms, NASA scientists say. The massive sunspot, previously known as Active Region 12192, was turned toward Earth in October and early November, but rotated out of view. Now the active region has rotated back around to face Earth again, and although the sunspot has shrunk in size, it will likely be disruptive, NASA scientist Holly Gilbert told Space.com during a video interview about the massive sunspot. "We have a good idea, based on the structure of that magnetic field and the sunspot, that it's very possible that it will create some midlevel flares." Sunspots are blemish-like regions on the sun where magnetic fields become very tightly bundled. In terms of size, it ranks 33rd largest of 32,908 active regions recorded since 1874, and it's the largest sunspot recorded since 1990. The huge spot released six major solar flares in Earth's direction in October and early November, plus a series of smaller flares, before moving to the side of the sun facing away from Earth. Scientists cannot yet predict when a sunspot will produce flares or if those flares will kick up coronal mass ejections.

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