Since rotating into view, the sunspot group AR12192 has continued to grow in size and complexity, becoming the largest sunspot of the current solar cycle, cycle 24 (SC24.) The region has produced numerous C and M-class flares including an X1 flare.
NASA’s Spaceweather.com reports:
Solar activity is high. During the past 48 hours, monster sunspot AR2192 has produced a series of seven M-class solar flares of increasing intensity. The eruptions crossed the threshold into X-territory with an X1-class flare on Oct. 22nd. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a powerful flash of extreme UV radiation in the sunspot’s magnetic canopy at 14:30 UT:
Watts Up With That Has more details including an animation of sunspot AR2192 HERE.
So far we have escaped a two potential EMP threats, but the danger continues to grow.
Earth-effects could increase in the days ahead. AR2192 has an unstable ‘beta-gamma-delta’ magnetic field that harbors energy for powerful explosions, and the active region is turning toward Earth. NOAA forecasters estimate at 65% chance of M-class flares and a 20% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.
Like many stars, the sun is prone to sudden outbursts. Erupting from the star’s surface, these events sometimes sling globs of charged particles and sun-stuff in Earth’s direction. If they’re powerful enough, these coronal mass ejections can produce geomagnetic storms that damage satellites and disrupt power grids.
Though we’ve known about such eruptions for centuries (the most powerful on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event), scientists haven’t had a good handle on the mechanics behind the eruptions.
Now, astrophysicist Tahar Amari of the Polytechnic School in Palaiseau, France and his colleagues have used a combination of solar observations and sophisticated calculations to trace the evolution and eruption of a coronal mass ejection. The team did this by studying four days of observations gathered by two space-based satellites and an Earth-based observatory in 2006. The observations preceded a coronal mass ejection. Then, the team combined those observations with a computer program that could trace the activity of individual magnetic elements near the sun’s surface.
Amari and his colleagues found that pre-existing, twisted magnetic filaments simmering near the sun’s surface suddenly ballooned outward from an area of magnetic instability, producing kinetic energy that catapulted matter into space. The modeling helps resolve an ongoing debate about whether eruptions arise from magnetic ropes that are already on the sun’s surface, or whether those ropes are produced during the events.
The research, which the team published this week in Nature and is featured on the journal’s cover, resulted in several spectacular figures illustrating the formation of these solar slingshots. Flip through the gallery above to see some of these.