This picture of the Sun was taken on March 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm. Shortly afterward, the Observatory opened to the public to view today's enormous sunspots in both white continuum light and red hydrogen-alpha light.
This white-light photograph reveals details of the photosphere, the Sun's surface. Foremost among those features are the sunspots, magnetically active regions created when magnetic loops erupt through the photosphere.
Today's Sun features sunspots 1430 (center top), 1428 (bottom) and the massive and still-growing sunspot complex 1429, which now spans a width more than 7 times the Earth's diameter. Since rotating into view on March 2, sunspot 1429 has created fantastic displays on the Sun.
Sunspot 1429 was the origin of the solar flare that occurred on March 6. This solar flare was the second biggest flare in this sunspot cycle! The flare had a magnitude of X5.4, one of the strongest and most active types of solar flares.
The flare launched a coronal mass ejection which dealt a glancing blow to the Earth's magnetosphere. The wake of the CME has caused dramatic aurorae to be seen at high latitudes.
Sunspot 1429 harbors energy for more flares, and NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% cance of another X-class flare today (March 9, 2012).
Telescope: Televue 85mm with AstroSolar ND5 film solar filter.
Camera: Lumenera SKYnyx 2-2M.