At present, we are very close to the solar minimum. So far in 2018, a total of 18 days (45%) have been without sunspots. But we have one now, a large one that surprised sunwatchers as it rotated into view February 4th. It’s at a place very near the equator, such that if it fires off a solar flare and/or coronal mass ejection (CME), we could very well see it on a direct collision course with Earth.
The positioning is similar to the 1859 Carrington event, which hurled a huge CME directly at Earth, the largest ever observed. A solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would cause widespread disruptions and damage to a modern and technology-dependent society. The solar storm of 2012 was of similar magnitude, but it passed Earth’s orbit without striking the planet.
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Sunspot AR2699 continues to grow, more than doubling in size since…