Massive sunspot can be seen with naked eye, but don't look

Large sunspots like Sunspot 1089 can impact satellites and electrical grids

Astronomers at Kitt Peak National Observatory in  Arizona noted this week that a sunspot had grown so large it could be seen without using a solar telescope. 

Known as Sunspot 1089, reported that scientist

Gil Esquerdo's shot of sunspot 1089
"spotted it" as the sun set over Kitt Peak (you can sort of spot it in the lower left side of this posted photo).

NASA telescopes watch cosmic violence, mysteries unravel

This isn't the first time a sunspot could be seen with the naked eye. In 2004 NASA noted a sunspot 20 times the size of Earth.  At the time NASA said , "the implications of this spot have scientists on the edge of their seats - if the active region generates Coronal Mass Ejections, massive explosions with a potential force of a billion megaton bombs, it will be a fairly direct hit to Earth and its satellites and power grids."  NASA also noted a large number of solar events occurred in the fall of 2003 when about 17 major flares erupted on the Sun.

Experts were quick to note that while the sunspot is big enough to see under the right conditions, you shouldn't really look directly at the Sun as it can cause eye damage.

NASA also noted the sunspot on its Solar Dynamics Observatory site.  NASA launched the $808 million spacecraft Feb. 11 to study the Sun and send back pictures about sunspots, solar flares and a variety of other never-before-seen solar events. The idea is to get a better idea of how the Sun works and let scientists better forecast the space weather to offer earlier warnings to protect astronauts and satellites, NASA said. 

The SDO for example is looking to determine how the sun's magnetic field -which SDO scientists said never appears the same way twice -- is generated, structured and converted into violent solar events such as turbulent solar wind, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These immense clouds of material, when directed toward Earth, can cause large magnetic storms in our planet's magnetosphere and upper atmosphere. SDO will provide critical data that will improve the ability to predict these space weather events. 

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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