A Spot with Potential

AR11678 observed by SDO/HMI
A sunspot region with potential, AR11678! Yes pun intended. This solar active region (AR for short) has emerged suddenly from under the solar photosphere (the visible “surface”) packed with magnetic potential energy and the potential for some significant flaring. It has grown to over 6 Earth diameters across but its full extent is hard to judge because we are observing the sunspots on a sphere not a flat disk. The region has quickly grown to a complex sunspot region with a delta configuration. A delta configuration is when magnetic flux emerges into the penumbral area of a sunspot but with opposite polarity to the magnetic flux already in the penumbra. This is an unstable configuration and indicates a high probability for flaring with the possibility for M and X-class flares. Forecasters at NOAA estimate a 90% probability for C-class, a 45% probability for M-class and a 15% probability for X-class flares. Other estimates are lower with 38%, 11% and 2% probabilities for C, M and X-class flares respectively. The region did produce a C8 flare peaking at 11UT in GOES X-ray. Here is a video showing the emerging sunspot group observed in visible light by the SDO/HMI instrument combined with SDO/HMI magnetograms, which show the positive (white) and negative (black) magnetic flux.

credit: NASA/SDO and jhelioviewer