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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Persistent sunspot expanding, ejects intense flare

Scientists were surprised to learn last night that Sunspot AR1990 is not only still active, but appears to be getting stronger. It announced itself yesterday by ejecting a powerful X4.9-Class solar flare, which is the largest recorded in nearly two years. The spot, which has been growing from its initial discovery in early January, is now estimated to be the size of Jupiter.

This sunspot has stayed active through three solar revolutions, which researchers note is an impressive run. The region, formerly known as AR1967 and AR1944, is not currently in the Earth-Sun line, thus the latest eruption is of no threat. However, as our star continues to revolve the spot will line up with Earth over the next week, and with the 48-hour forecast calling for a 60% chance of an M-Class flare there is a slight risk for an Earth-based event.

While solar flares are not generally considered a direct threat to our species, the collateral damage they can cause is immeasurable. An eruption with the magnitude of yesterday's event could easily cause serious interruptions to the entire power-grid infrastructure, and if a cascade effect were to play out could essentially force humanity in to an 1850's stage of technological development. While scientists consider that scenario very unlikely, they concede that the possibility does exist.

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