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Yesterday, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) peered into the dark heart of sunspot 1072 and found it seething with activity.
The curvaceous arcs in this extreme ultraviolet (171 Å) image are magnetic flux tubes filled with million-degree plasma. Occasionally, a magnetic instability causes an explosion, a minor solar flare, which appears in the movie as a brief flash of light. None of these B-class flares was strong enough to effect Earth; they were merely photogenic.
According to NOAA forecasters, sunspot 1072 harbors energy for flares 100 times stronger than this, and there is a 10% chance of such an M-class eruption during the next 24 hours. Shortwave radio blackouts, sudden ionospheric disturbances, and some fantastic movies from SDO could be in the offing. Stay tuned.
M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions.