Partial solar eclipse shows off massive sunspot

From the National Science Foundation: Press Release 14-141

Spotlighting the sun


October 24, 2014

Astronomers with the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) captured pictures not only of Thursday’s partial solar eclipse, but also of the “monster” sized active region or sun spot that has many comparing it to one of a similar size that occurred 11 years ago.

The sun spots were earlier reported by scientists with the NSF-supported National Solar Observatory. According to astronomers Frank Hill and Kiran Jain, “As of Oct 21, 2014, a very large active region is currently on the solar disk and producing flares as strong as an X1. [Solar flares are classified according to their strength, and X-class flares are the biggest.] It is eerily reminiscent of another very large active region, which appeared almost exactly 11 years ago around Halloween 2003 very close to the same location on the sun and produced an X17 event, the largest solar flare recorded in modern history. That flare was one of a series of very strong flares now known as the Halloween flares. We may be in for an encore. This active region currently covers 2,000 millionths of the solar disk area and is almost the size of Jupiter.”

What’s the significance of active regions?

When they produce X17 events with solar winds that spew solar matter full of charged particles, they can impact the Earth’s ionosphere, the very upper part of our atmosphere. That’s where our satellites reside, so extreme solar winds can hamper our communications systems that rely on these satellites, such as GPSs and telecommunications, as well as have impact on power grids. Additionally, the increased solar activity makes that upper atmosphere a little hotter, which causes more wear-and-tear on the satellites. The last Halloween flares actually knocked out power grids in Sweden, so they can be cause for concern here on Earth. The current active region showed up in late September and is likely to stick around for a few weeks, so astronomers are monitoring it closely to see how it grows or changes.

And NOAO’s Robert Sparks showed that sometimes all it takes is a phone camera and a telescope to provide photos with amazing detail. In two of the photos, he used cell phones attached to a telescope, providing not only a good look at the sun’s active region, but also prominences (large, bright, gaseous features that extend outward from the sun’s surface, often in loop shapes) and filaments (large regions of very dense, cool gas, held in place by magnetic fields that appear as dark, long and thin).


Media Contacts

Ivy F. Kupec, NSF, (703) 292-8796,

Related Websites

National Optical Astronomy Observatory:

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
DC Cowboy
October 28, 2014 5:43 am

Looks like 2192 has rotated past the point where flares would have an impact on earth. Wonder if it makes it around the sun again.

October 28, 2014 5:54 am

Sunspot 2192 is located at the solar Carrington Longitude of 247 degrees
Which appears to be dead in the middle of the solar magnetic bulge
Does this matter?
Yes it does for the sun-Earth magnetic link (but about that some other time)

October 28, 2014 6:44 am

That would explain why 10 metres Ham band was wide open yesterday.

Jim G
October 28, 2014 7:59 am

The sun spot made the partial eclipse photos I was able to obtain “special” as the moons disk approached it. It was almost as if the moon’s disk was pointing out the sun spot. Kept hoping for a flare during the process but no uck on that. Next best thing to traveling to see the total eclipse.

Mumbles McGuirck
October 28, 2014 8:06 am

Here’s a loop of 2192 as it rotated by:

M Courtney
Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
October 28, 2014 8:30 am

Thanks. It looks beautiful.
Sadly, I never know what I’m looking at with these solar things but they give me a warm feeling.

Reply to  M Courtney
October 28, 2014 11:03 am

Go to this page
select HMI Continuim, select resolution 512 less (or 1024 but is very jerky), enter Latest n images 150, click on search. Give it a bit of time to load, and you will know exactly what you are looking at.

Mario Lento
Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
October 28, 2014 8:47 am

Thanks Mumbles… I did not realize, until I saw the video, that 2192 was nearing the end of its stare at Earth… Then I looked more closely and saw that the eclipse was 4 days ago.

Barbara Skolaut
Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
October 28, 2014 9:04 am

Thanks, MM.

Billy Liar
October 28, 2014 8:43 am

Well, I’ve learnt a lot about the rubbish cameras in cell phones.
If you are going to the trouble of setting up a telescope to view an astronomical phenomenon why not use a proper camera rather than a low resolution, out of focus phone camera image?

Jay Turberville
Reply to  Billy Liar
October 28, 2014 1:14 pm

The image quality probably had as much do do with the kind/type of solar filter used/not used as anything else. With proper filtering, I’d bet you could get a very nice solar image with most cell phone cameras.

Jay Turberville
Reply to  Billy Liar
October 28, 2014 1:28 pm

Did a little digging. The photo above was shot with an expensive DSLR and a telephoto lens. Better images were obtained with cell phones because they were looking through telescopes with better filtering.

October 28, 2014 11:11 am

for photogenic purpose only…

Michael Wassil
Reply to  Paul
October 28, 2014 5:59 pm

LOL. That’s a REALLY strange looking sunspot. Oh, right, some bozo flew his plane right in front of the sunspot right at the exact time. sigh.

October 28, 2014 11:18 am

If you think that was a big spot look up the archives on the SOHO web page for 2001/03/29 09:36 UT.
That was Solar Cycle 23.

November 6, 2014 1:12 pm

Bump. Just got this in my inbox:
A large active solar region is rotating into a position that is
favourable for geoeffective Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and possible
auroral activity. There is an increased chance of auroral activity
over the coming 7-10 days. Warnings and/or alerts will follow should a
geoeffective CME be observed and/or significant geomagnetic activity
Australian Space Forecast Centre
IPS Radio and Space Services
Bureau of Meteorology
P: +61 2 9213 8010

%d bloggers like this: