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The Sun on March 30, 2001. You can see the huge sunspot in the upper, right hand part of the Sun. Though it doesn't look like much, this area is equivalent to the surface area of 14 Earths! The sunspot has since moved so that it is on the far side of the Sun from Earth.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Spaceweather.com

Massive Sunspot! (Updated!)
News story originally written on April 4, 2001

The largest sunspot of the decade has shown its face on the Sun. Another flare has shot from this sunspot! It was released at 4:51 EDT, Monday.

Because the Sun rotates, this massive sunspot moved across the Sun in the last week to the far side of the Sun as viewed from Earth. That means the flare's resulting coronal mass ejection (CME) won't hit the Earth directly. But this flare is so huge (an X-20 classification), that it will affect the Earth. This means there may be increased auroral activity which could possibly be viewed the nights of April 4th and 5th.

Dr. Paal Brekke, the European Space Agency Deputy Project Scientist for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), one of a fleet of spacecraft monitoring solar activity and its effects on the Earth, said this flare, "was more powerful that the famous March 6, 1989 flare which was related to the disruption of the power grids in Canada." So, if the sunspot hadn't moved across the Sun in the last week, this solar event could have struck Earth with its full force. Then there could've been serious radio disruptions or power blackouts!

Stay tuned to Spaceweather.com for updates!

Last modified April 6, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA