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February 24 2013

What Damage Could Be Caused by a Massive Solar Storm?

On Wednesday, NASA released an image of a series of enormous sunspots snapped by at the Solar Dynamics Observatory, an orbiting telescope. The sunspots—the dark spots in the center of the image—are estimated to be larger in diameter than six Earths placed next to each other.

These sunspots pose no inherent danger—they’re merely temporary areas of intense magnetic activity that inhibit the sun’s normal convection currents—but, on occasion, the unstable area around a sunspot can trigger an unusually large solar flare (below), flinging streams of radiation outward from the sun.

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