Monday, March 28, 2011

Solar Cycle 24 sunspots are picking up steam

Courtesy of Space

Radio emissions like these are caused by plasma instabilities in the sun's atmosphere above sunspots. With the sun becoming 'radio-active,' it's no coincidence that sunspots are emerging in abundance. Leading the way is behemoth active region AR1176, shown here in a photo taken yesterday by Larry Alvarez of Flower Mound, Texas:

AR1176, the multi-cored ensemble at the bottom of the image, is dragging a pair of long magnetic filaments behind as it cuts aross the solar disk. Two more sunspots are visible in the active region's wake. The entire starscape spans more than 500,000 km from top to bottom--truly impressive. "I call this picture Solar Rip," says Alvarez, "because it looks like a rip in the stellar surface."