This animation, made from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows active region 1416 as it rotated into view over the past week, doubling in size as it approached the center of the Sun’s disk.
According to SpaceWeather.com’s Dr. Tony Phillips, AR1416 is magnetically charged in such a way as to be ready to release an M-class flare at any time. If this happens over the next couple of days, it will be aimed directly at Earth…
Not to worry though, M-class flares are not dangerous… although they could have some effects on high-altitude polar-orbiting satellites and increase auroral activity in the higher latitudes.
Read more on my Universe Today article, which was also linked to earlier today by msnbc.com’s Cosmic Log editor Alan Boyle.
Also, just for fun, I went outside this afternoon to see if I could get a photo of AR1416. After setting up a quick solar projector before the Sun sank behind the tree line, I saw it. I grabbed a photo with my phone (of the projected image) and made a quick edit in Photoshop to adjust the levels and sharpness (and rotate it appropriately)…the result is below:
There it is in the center: AR1416. The larger sunspots are as big as our entire planet! Incredible.
With a year to go before the peak of this solar maximum period, there will surely be a lot more activity to observe on our home star!