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What Makes This Sunspot So Dangerous?

Don't be surprised if there's another X-flare this weekend. Giant sunspot AR3590 is directly facing Earth, and it has an unstable magnetic field that harbors energy for the strongest explosions. This magnetic map from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows what makes the sunspot so dangerous:

Most sunspots have a simple magnetic field with only two poles: + (plus) and - (minus) . Sunspot AR3590 is more like a layer cake with a whole stack of pluses and minuses. Opposite magnetic polarities pressed together in this way can lead to explosive magnetic reconnection--the mechanism behind solar flares. Indeed, only two days ago AR3590 unleashed the strongest solar flare of Solar Cycle 25 (X6.3).

NOAA forecasters say there is a 30% chance of another X-flare this weekend. If it happens, the flare will be geoeffective because the sunspot is directly facing Earth.


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