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Giant Sunspot & Solar Flare!
2004 07 20

GIANT SUNSPOT: Sunspot 652 is so big you can see it without a telescope. (Warning: always use safe solar observing techniques.) Witness this picture taken by Gradient Lok of Selangor, Malaysia:

That fuzzy smudge near the tip of the flag is sunspot 652, nearly as wide as the planet Jupiter. The setting sun looks squashed in Lok's photo because Earth's atmosphere acts like a giant lens, which flattens and distorts the sun when it gets close to the horizon. Even sunspots can be distorted: click here to see.

SOLAR FLARE: Magnetic fields above giant sunspot 652 erupted today at 1230 UT, sparking an M8-class solar flare. Stay tuned for more information about a possible Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME)

Today's big flare, photographed by Charles Tilley of Statesville, North Carolina.

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