Last week the Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted some evidence of increasing solar activity – a group of new massive sunspots.
The two large sunspots in the middle of this image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory formed fairly rapidly over the 19th (my birthday!) and 20th of February. We’ve previously covered some other solar activity – last month saw a massive coronal mass ejection come close to the Earth ahead of the Sun’s 12-year long cycle maximum in May.
The largest sunspot near the center of the image took less than two days to grow to a size of about six Earth diameters.
Sunspots are essentially large magnetic anomalies on the surface of the Sun. These two have formed into a kind called a Delta Region where the brighter yellow areas near the sunspots in the image are actually magnetic field lines of opposite polarity to that of the sunspot they surround. This unstable configuration is known for producing solar flares like those we saw in October.