MessageToEagle.com - A gigantic sunspot is fast-growing on the surface of the sun.
Big enough to swallow six Earths whole, the sunspot can trigger solar flares this week, according to NASA scientists.
Over the course of Feb. 19-20, 2013, scientists watched a giant sunspot form in under 48 hours. However, it is
really difficult to judge since the spot lies on a sphere not a flat disk.
Click on image to enlarge
The bottom two black spots on the sun, known as sunspots, appeared quickly over the course of Feb. 19-20, 2013. These two sunspots are part of
the same system and are over six Earths across. This image combines images from two instruments on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO): the
Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), which takes pictures in visible light that show sunspots and the Advanced Imaging Assembly (AIA),
which took an image in the 304 Angstrom wavelength showing the lower atmosphere of the sun, which is colorized in red. Credit:
NASA/SDO/AIA/HMI/Goddard Space Flight Center
“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 spokeswoman Karen Fox, of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.,
in an image description.
As magnetic fields on the sun rearrange and realign, dark spots known as sunspots can appear on its surface.
The spot quickly evolved into what's called a delta region, in which the lighter areas around the sunspot,
the penumbra, exhibit magnetic fields that point in the opposite direction of those fields in the center,
“This is a fairly unstable configuration that scientists know can lead to eruptions of radiation on the sun called
solar flares,” Fox added.
The sun will reach its peak activity sometime this year; in the meantime, it is in the midst of its 11-year solar weather cycle.
Launched in 2010, NASA's SDO is one of several spacecraft that constantly monitor the sun’s space weather environment.