Image Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/HMI/Goddard Space Flight Center

 

Our sun, which is responsible for providing sustenance to our planet -- is prone to very strange behavior, including spitting out massive amounts of plasma. Some of these plasma jets could engulf our small planet tens of times over. This is a perfect example of such a scenario, as the sun burped out a sunspot that is more than 6 times the diameter of Earth. This colossal storm grew rapidly, expanding to this amazing size in less than 48 hours time, surprising solar scientists who keep watchful eyes on our parent star.

 

Here, you can see the sheer mass of the sunspot. Sunspots are formed by the turbulent magnetic fields that inhabit the sun. In this case, the sunspot quickly evolved into a delta region (the lighter areas surrounding the blackish spots, where the penumbra begins to exhibit magnetic fields that point in a different direction from the dark area, near the center) Such an unstable figuration has a propensity for unleashing solar flares capable of disrupting our radio and satellite communication systems in geosynchronous orbit around Earth.

 

Solar scientists will continue to monitor these sunspots, in addition to anymore that will crop up in the future, something that is expected since the sun is at solar maximum, which happens over an eleven year period. They will be particularly vigilant in studying them, trying to decipher their connection to the global climate on Earth, and the other planets in our solar system.
This image was taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory and combines two separate images taken using two instruments on board the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI). These filters take images at visible wavelengths and the 304 Angstrom wavelength, which allows us to see the lower atmosphere of the sun with clarity (colored in red).

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This article was written by Jaime


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