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Space weather storms from the Sun
News story originally written on October 24, 2003
Two gigantic sunspot groups have recently appeared on the Sun and are generating
tremendous space weather storms. The sunspot groups (known as group 484 and
group 486) are about as large as the planet Jupiter. It is very unusual for
two sunspot groups this large to appear on the Sun at the same time. Sunspots,
which are the visible manifestations of regions where strong magnetic
fields reach the surface of the Sun, are often indicators of high levels of solar
activity. These two large groups have generated powerful solar
flares and Coronal
Mass Ejections (CMEs).
A CME generated by group 484 reached Earth on Friday, 24 October 2003, bombarding
our planet with radiation and energetic protons and electrons. Such "space
weather storms" produce spectacular displays of aurora and can damage
disrupt electrical power distribution grids, and interfere
with radio communications.
These two large sunspot groups may continue to hurl such storms towards Earth
for the next couple of weeks.
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