Sun points a loaded gun at us
By Alan Boyle
February 12, 2012
As solar activity builds toward an expected peak in 2013, a double-barreled sunspot has been doubling in size over the past couple of days and now has the potential to shoot significant eruptions in our direction.
It’s not certain that active region 1416 will erupt with coronal mass ejections as violent as the blasts that were thrown off by the sun late last month. But it has developed a mixed “beta-gamma” magnetic field that packs enough energy to throw off medium-scale solar flares, SpaceWeather.com reports.
“Any such eruptions this weekend would be Earth-directed as the sunspot turns to face our planet,” SpaceWeather’s Tony Phillips wrote.
Medium-size M-class flares are generally associated with the kinds of solar storms that produce enhanced auroral lights, but not huge inconveniences on Earth. It’s the X-class flares you really have to watch out for: That level of solar storming could affect radio communications as well as satellites and electrical grids if the operators of those systems aren’t careful.