Tags: sunspots | solar flares | CME

Giant Sunspot Has Scientists Scratching Their Heads

By    |   Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 06:47 AM

A colossal sunspot — at 80,000 miles wide, the largest seen in about a quarter of a century — is acting peculiarly, producing lots of flares but hardly any coronal mass ejections, which are huge bursts of solar wind and magnetic fields, PBS reported.

The sun is comprised of plasma gas. Sunspots are comparatively cooler areas on the sun – about 7,500 degrees Fahrenheit. As the sun spins, its magnetic field releases ionized gas.

"It's kind of like having a rubber band that you twist and twist, and it starts to knot up," said  C. Alex Young of NASA Goddard's Heliophysics Science Division. "The same sort of thing is happening with magnetic fields. They become more twisted, they get more concentrated, and eventually you have to get rid of that energy," PBS reported.

This release can come in the form of a solar flare or a coronal mass ejection (CME).

Instead of producing CMEs, this sunspot is holding on to its plasma. It's producing many really big solar flares, equivalent to billions of Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons, though hardly any mass plasma ejections, according to PBS.

While CMEs send energy into space, flares are shorter in duration and their energy is accelerated back into the sun.

"I can't remember ever seeing a sunspot producing so many solar flares and so few CMEs," said Michael Hesse, director of NASA Goddard's Heliophysics Science Division.

"It wants to get rid of this energy, but we don't understand why it does it through a flare and not a CME."

Scientists are fascinated by the size and complexity of the sunspot.

"Imagine the doctor says you've got a nice little round mole," Young said. "But when it starts to break up into pieces and change color and get jagged and complicated, that's when you start to become concerned," PBS reported.

Scientists are wondering, "How can we have flares and no CMEs?" said Hesse, PBS reported.

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A colossal sunspot - at 80,000 miles wide, the largest seen in about a quarter of a century - is acting peculiarly, producing lots of flares but hardly any coronal mass ejections, which are huge bursts of solar wind and magnetic fields, PBS reported.
sunspots, solar flares, CME
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2014-47-30
Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 06:47 AM
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