The build-up to the first ever Solar Maximum recorded in digital, and 3D, is well underway. The latest solar storm to capture the worlds attention is AR1476. At 60,000 miles or 100,000 kilometres across AR1476 is a sunspot of immense proportions. So large that it is visible in photo’s using a decent digital camera and the proper filters (welding glasses), it is never a good idea to stare directly at or point your camera towards the sun.
AR 1476 first appeared last week, spotted by NASA’s SDO team, who proceeded to tweet the observation. The news spread rapidly, with space weather warnings being announced. generating a massive buzz on the way.
SDO is keeping a close eye on AR1476, the sunspot is still active, with a 10% chance of an X-Class solar flare and 4 massive active dark cores within, AR 1476 is both fascinating and dangerous. An X-Class flare is the highest rated class and potentially dangerous, at the very least it could most annoying. With the ability to destroy communications satellites and interfere with radio signals an uncomfortable silence may ensue.
Another solar storm also appeared Monday (April 14) night, AR 1471, which quickly generated an M Class CME – Coronal Mass Ejection – or solar flare that is heading in Earths direction. Due to arrive Wednesday morning. While this is a large solar storm the M-Class flare heading this way is fairly minor. Solar flares are classified into C, M and X classifications, with X being the most powerful. There have already been a number of large sized flares impact the Earth during the current solar maximum. So far they have only resulted in some amazing time-lapse videos of the Aurora Borealis lighting up,
NASA predicts the solar cycle will peak mid-2013, with large solar storms to continue till then. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) predict the solar storms will peak in the second half of this year. The exact timing is unknown, the Sun is full of mysteries it seems. The solar maximum occurs at the end of the 11 year solar weather cycle, with the new cycle the Sun enters the dormant phase of the cycle.
The Suns solar weather continues to put on a show for us all, this is just the warm-up act though. The peak of the maximum is still between 6 and 12 months away, at which point the most lively activity should be visible. Time to buckle up and enjoy the ride.
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