One of the biggest sunspot groups of Solar Cycle 24 is emerging near the sun’s southeastern limb.
AR1785 has a “beta-gamma-delta” magnetic field that harbors energy for powerful X-class solar flares. Another active region trailing behind it, AR1787, is only slightly less potent, with a magnetic field capable of M-class eruptions. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the sprawling complex during the early hours on today (5th July).
These sunspots are a sign that the sun’s southern hemisphere is waking up. For most of the current solar cycle, the northern half of the sun has dominated sunspot counts and flare production. The south has been lagging behind–until now. June brought a surge in southern sunspots, and the trend is continuing in July. This “southern awakening” could herald a double-peaked Solar Maximum due in late 2013-early 2014.
The largest dark cores in sunspot complex AR1785-1787 are as wide as Earth, making the ensemble an easy target for backyard solar telescopes. Amateur astronomers are encouraged to monitor developments, as NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of M-flares during the next 24 hours.