Published on Jan 2, 2014
2014 began with a bang. At 18:54 UT on January 1st, big sunspot AR1936 erupted, producing a strong M9-class solar flare. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the explosion’s extreme ultraviolet flash:
The movie shows a dark filament of plasma racing away from the blast site, but most of the material fell back to the stellar surface. Nevertheless, the explosion did produce a CME that could deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field later this week. NOAA analysts are still evaluating this possibility.
The M9-flare of New Year’s Day followed close on the heels of an M6-flare on New Year’s Eve. Sunspot AR1936 produced both explosions. The New Year’s Eve event produced a minor, slow-moving CME that is not expected to disturb Earth’s magnetic field if and when it does arrive.
Sunspot AR1936 is active, but new sunspot AR1944 looks even more potent. The behemoth active region emerged over the sun’s southeastern limb on Jan 1st:
Because of foreshortening near the sun’s limb, the complexity of AR1944′s magnetic field is still unknown. The sheer size of the sunspot, however, suggests it is capable of strong flares. The emergence of AR1944 combined with the ongoing activity from AR1936 has prompted NOAA forecasters to raise the odds of eruptions on Jan. 2nd to 70% for M-flares and 30% for X-flares.