For more than a week, the largest sunspot in 24 years has been creating a dazzling show of solar flares.
The series of flares was first observed erupting from a giant active region on the sun Oct. 19, according to NASA. The most recent activity, a mid-level solar flare of the M6.6 class, was recorded at 9:32 p.m. Monday.
The active region is large enough to have 10 Earths laid across its diameter, totalling about 80,000 miles across, according to CNET. Between Friday and Monday, four X-class flares erupted from the region, which NASA described as being the most intense type of flare. A number of M-class flares, which are one-tenths as strong, have also been observed.
“The series of flares over the course of the previous week all erupted from a particularly large active region on the sun, labeled AR 12192 — the largest seen on the sun in 24 years,” a statement from NASA reads. “Active regions are areas of intense and complex magnetic fields that are often the source of solar flares.”
NASA reported that the sun is currently at solar maximum, a period where the sun is at its peak activity. It occurs about every 11 years. As a result, researchers said active regions are currently more common than usual.
Recently, NASA captured an image of the sun where its active areas came together to create the appearance of a jack-’o-lantern’s face.
AR 1219, the giant active region, will be out of sight soon, according to NASA. The agency reported that the region is rotating over the right horizon of the sun.