A monster solar flare erupted early Sunday (Oct. 19) from a huge sunspot that may just be getting warmed up.
The sun fired off an X-class solar flare — the most powerful type — that peaked at 1:01 a.m. EDT (5:01 GMT) Sunday. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft captured photos and video of the intense sun storm, which researchers classified as an X1.1 flare.
The flare erupted from a sunspot called AR (Active Region) 2192, which has since grown to become 78,000 miles (125,000 kilometers) wide, according to Spaceweather.com — almost as big as the planet Jupiter.
Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun's atmosphere, the corona.
Colossal spiral-shaped flows of super-hot plasma have been discovered on the sun, completing a nearly 50-year quest to confirm their existence, scientists say.
These giant solar plasma spirals — each of which is at least 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) wide — could help spark the formation of strongly magnetic regions on the sun that have been linked with solar flares and other sun eruptions, researchers added.