Sunspot Watch!

Solar Lim 12/5/06
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft captured this view of the sunspot just a few hours before it produced a powerful solar flare. Be sure to grab your solar filters and watch as the spot develops and rotates into view.
SOHO

Grab your solar telescopes and Mylar filters — a major sunspot group has just come around the limb of the Sun and into view. What's more, on December 5th this spot produced a major solar flare. If it erupts again soon, we could be in for dazzling auroral light shows.

The X-class flare, (X9.0 for those in the know) ranks as one of the most violent solar outbursts of the year. Such flares are known to produce tremendous auroral displays, and they are powerful enough to damage Earth-orbiting satellites. However, there is little to fear here — the blast happened on the edge of the Sun as seen from Earth. If we are impacted, it will be only by a glancing blow.

But be on the lookout nonetheless. Spots that produce huge X-class flares often remain active for a while, and the region will be facing Earth throughout the coming two weeks. If another flare occurs, a spectacular display of the northern lights is likely. We'll be sure to keep you posted.