Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scientists Eyeing Monster Sunspot

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2012 at 11:25 AM

A 60,000-mile-wide sunspot has scientists worried. The spot - large enough for amateur astronomers see with their personal telescopes - could be an indication that large solar storms may be on the horizon.

According to Live Science, the sun spots have already proven to be very active, firing off several Class C storms. Solar flares are categorized in three main categories: C, M and X, with C being the least powerful and X the strongest.

Mike Hapgood, space weather scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford, England, said the biggest concern would be if a solar storm is responsible for power outages lasting for months.

"A big geomagnetic storm can essentially put extra electric currents into the grid," Hapgood told the Los Angeles Times. "If it gets bad enough, you can have a complete failure of the power grid - it happened in Quebec back in 1989. If you've got that, then you've just got to get it back on again. But you could also damage the transformers, which would make it much harder to get the electric power back."

Solar activity fluctuates on an 11-year cycle. The current one - known as Solar Cycle 24 - is expected to peak in 2013.

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