A colossal sunspot on the surface of the sun is large enough to swallow six Earths whole, and could trigger solar flares this week, NASA scientists say.
The giant sunspot was captured on camera by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory as it swelled to enormous proportions over the 48 hours spanning Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 19 and 20).[…]
“It has grown to over six Earth diameters across, but its full extent is hard to judge since the spot lies on a sphere, not a flat disk,” wrote NASA spokeswomanKaren Fox, of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in an image description.
[S]ome of the intense magnetic fields in the sunspot region are pointing in opposite directions, making it ripe for solar activity.
“This is a fairly unstable configuration that scientists know can lead to eruptions of radiation on the sun called solar flares,” Fox explained.
Propagation in the higher portions of the HF band could be very interesting over the course of the next few days. If a solar flare erupts, however, it could make shortwave listening quite difficult.
WASHINGTON—The largest solar flare in five years is racing toward Earth, threatening to unleash a torrent of charged particles that could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights.[…]
“It’s hitting us right in the nose,” said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He called it the sun’s version of “Super Tuesday.”
The solar storm is likely to last through Friday morning, but the region that erupted can still send more blasts our way, Mr. Kunches said. He said another set of active sunspots is ready to aim at Earth right after this.
But for now, scientists are waiting to see what happens Thursday when the charged particles hit Earth at four million mph. [Continue reading at the WSJ]
GEOMAGNETIC STORM UPDATE: A CME propelled toward Earth by this morning’s X5-class solar flare is expected to reach our planet on March 8th at 0625 UT (+/- 7 hr). Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, who prepared the CME’s forecast track, say the impact could spark a strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm.
Expect some major geomagnetic disturbances and don’t be surprised if the HF bands are very quiet while we’re being blasted with electrons. On the plus side? If you live in Northern latitudes, look for some awe-inspiring auroras in the night sky.
(Note: This is a cross-posting from my other radio site, the SWLing Post)