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Largest sunspot group of year visible on surface of sun

(NASA Photo)

Though the sunspot cycle was heading toward a low point, the largest sunspot group of this year was visible on the sun this week.

The sunspot group, AR 2665, appeared on the limb of the sun over the weekend. It is nearly as large as the planet Jupiter and should be visible — with proper eye protection — most of this week.

The sunspots are magnetic columns of descending gasses and appear darker than the surface of the Sun.

The massive sunspot group has produced a few M-class solar flares and may produce an even more powerful event as it crosses the sun.

Sunspots are cooler regions on the solar photosphere. They typically sit about 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the solar surface is some 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even with this large sunspot event, we can still expect the next solar minimum to occur sometime in 2019 or 2020.

The current solar cycle is known as sunspot cycle No. 24 and is the weakest solar cycle in more than a century.

That’s good for us, as solar flares and coronal mass ejections interfere with our electric grid and communications systems.

One such interference was the great Carrington Event, a massive solar flare that exploded on the surface of the Sun on Sept. 1, 1859.

The massive mass ejection caused telegraph lines to ignite and burn, as well as sightings of the aurora as far south as the equator. Remember: All this happened before the advent of the technology we have today, such as computers and phones.

July skies offer something for everyone. Get you very own Dr. Sky July star chart.

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