Average 20 year old weather nerd. Plymouth State University Meteorology, Class of 2018. NOAA Hollings scholar. Summer 2016 intern at NWS Boston.
By: MAweatherboy1 , 11:54 AM GMT on January 05, 2013
The Sun is waking up as it approaches the peak of its roughly 11 year cycle. The past month (and really much of last year) was dominated by relative quiet despite the peak of solar maximum approaching. Most experts predict that solar maximum is peaking in the early to middle part of this year. While this is expected to be an unusually quiet solar max, that doesn't mean we won't see activity, and the Sun is making that clear now with the presence of three interesting sunspots. One of these is active region (AR) 1640, located in the Sun's northern hemisphere and rotating towards the west limb. A few days ago while it was near the center of the Sun AR1640 was a small, simple spot. However, it has grown rapidly for several days, and also developed into a magnetically complex spot that harbors energy for powerful flares. Surprisingly, however, this giant spot has produced only a smattering of relatively weak low-level C class flares. There certainly remains potential for this area to launch a stronger flare, but since it is nearing the western limb eruptions are unlikely to be Earth directed.
The two other sunspots I am watching are both now rotating into view off the NE and SE limb. The one coming over the NE limb was responsible for a moderate C class flare last evening, as well as our first M class flare in a while early this morning. Since this sunspot is just now rotating into view, this was not an Earth directed blast, but that could change in days ahead as the spot rotates towards the center of the solar disk. We will know more about it as it rotates further onto the disk; currently we can just see parts of its leader spots, not the entire active region. The other interesting spot is rotating over the SE limb, and it has been numbered AR1650. We can see more of this one than the NE limb spot, but its proximity to the SE limb still makes identifying specifics about the spot difficult. It does appear smaller than AR1640, but it also has the look of a sunspot that could be magnetically complex, with the potential to produce solar flares. As more imagery is examined, we will be able to tell if the spot is in a state of growth or decay, which will be important to determining the threat of future flares. We will also know more about its magnetic composition.
Figure 1: The visible solar disk early this morning. Giant sunspot 1640 is clearly visible as it rotates towards the west limb. The sunspot rotating over the SE limb, AR1650, is also visible, though not very clear yet. We are just beginning to see the region rotating over the NE limb. Meanwhile, several smaller, not magnetically complex spots are also transiting the disk.
Figure 2: Three day X ray chart. Note the numerous low level C class flares, mostly produced by AR1640, and the larger M class flare from last night produced by the region rotating in from the NE limb.
Figures 3 and 4: M1.7 solar flare off the NE limb early this morning.
Thank you for reading, and enjoy your weekend! If necessary, I will provide updates in the comments section for as long as these spots remain threatening.
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.
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