The largest sunspot of Solar Cycle 24 is sliding into view on the surface of the sun. Sunspot AR 1339 is large enough it can be seen at sunset through the mist over the ocean or low clouds. Do not look directly into the sun. AR 1339 has been quiet since November 3rd, when is unleashed a X2 flare, with an X28 being the largest observed in history.
According to Space Weather this “behemoth sunspot has a “beta-gamma-delta” magnetic field that harbors energy for more X-flares. Eruptions this weekend could be Earth-directed as AR1339 turns toward our planet.”
I was looking at the size of this huge spot and was reminded of the 1859 “Carrington Event which was a X28+ flare.
More details on this event can be found in THE 1859 SOLAR–TERRESTRIAL DISTURBANCE AND THE CURRENT LIMITS OF EXTREME SPACE WEATHER ACTIVITY1859 Storm – Extreme Space Weather
Here is a list of recently recorded flares with class ratings from Space Weather:
Hazards from these flares as listed at Wikipedia include:
The soft X-ray flux of X class flares increases the ionization of the upper atmosphere, which can interfere with short-wave radio communication and can heat the outer atmosphere and thus increase the drag on low orbiting satellites, leading to orbital decay. Energetic particles in the magnetosphere contribute to the aurora borealis and aurora australis. Energy in the form of hard x-rays can be damaging to spacecraft electronics and are generally the result of large plasma ejection in the upper chromosphere.