[Image from Saturday, February 8th]
The sun continues to go through a relatively weak solar maximum phase during solar cycle 24; however, in recent days there were two active and large sunspot regions (AR1967 and AR1968) which were being closely monitored for possible major eruptions. Fortunately, these two sunspot regions have now crossed much of the visible side of the sun without producing a single X-class solar flare (most severe type). The latest image of the sun (above) shows these two sunspot regions just about to move onto the back side of the sun and completely out of the “line of fire” with respect to the Earth. NOAA forecasters are still estimating chances of an M-class solar flare at about 60% from these regions and X-class flares at about 20%, but these chances are diminishing and any eruption at this time would likely produce only a glancing blow to the Earth’s upper atmosphere. A minor coronal mass ejection did hit the Earth’s magnetic field on Friday, February 7th, producing northern lights across much of the high latitudes.