There’s a Little Black Spot on the Sun Today

Astounding Photo of Massive Sunspot Cluster (Active Region 1476)

Astrophotographer Thierry Legault captured this amazing shot of Sunspot Cluster (Active Region 1476).

This sunspot cluster is approximately 120,000 miles across.  The big spot on the spinward side is roughly 60,000 miles across.  When you consider that the Earth is only 8,000 miles wide you start to understand how truly massive these structures are. 

Despite its staggering size and high magnetic activity levels, this sunspot cluster has been relatively quiet.  The spot has produced a number of small flares but nothing close to the X class flares or CMEs that can disrupt terrestrial communications and utility power.  The strongest flare from this spot so far was an M1.4 class flare on 2012 May 5.

Hopefully, 1476 will remain mild-mannered despite its size. 

Also shown in this magnificent photo is the new Chinese space station.  If you look carefully directly west of the sunspot cluster you can pick out a small winged shape.  That’s Tiangong-1, the first module of China’s planned space station transiting the sun.

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