Massive Sunspots Oct. 29, 2003

Donald F. Collins

Warren Wilson College

The sun imaged by projecting onto a paper screen and photographed with a camcorder. The two massive sunspot groups are larger than the planet Jupiter. The group near the center is labeled 10488. The sunspot group below the central dark one is labeled 10486 and is responsible for a massive solar flare on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2003 which sent a massive stream of solar wind particles toward the earth. As I am writing this, the aurora is barely visible in Western North Carolina a rare event!

Closeup of the lower group of sunspots (10486) responsible for the auroral storm. This image is obtained from the prime focus of a Celestron 8 inch telescope fitted with a solar-viewing filter and a Philips Vesta webcam (single frame). Notice the stucture of the sunspots: the dark umbra surrounded by the less dark penumbras. The sunspots represent massive magnetic storms on the sun and are sources of excessive charged particles (electrons and protons) that stream through space toward the planets including earth.

These solar storms are highly unusual especially since the solar maximum occured several years ago in 2000.