The Interwebs have been crackling with news of the HUGE new sunspot that rotated around the eastern limb of the sun a few days ago. It is one of the largest in recent memory. If you have a safe way of viewing the sun, either with a filtered telescope or popular every-blue-moon "eclipse glasses" designed for naked-eye viewing, you should definitely take a look! After digging out the eclipse glasses from the annular eclipse from a couple years ago (that is me modeling them at left), it was inspiring enough that I had to get out the lil' Celestron 5" scope to take a picture. Shown at right with minimal processing, the big spot near bottom center is Active Region 2192. It is many times larger than the earth, and flares are expected that will increase the chance of seeing aurora at mid-northern latitudes, so keep an eye out for those in the northern tiers of states. Another good way to monitor both solar activity and auroral chances as well as spectacular images, you can keep an eye on the Spaceweather website.
The other news regarding the Sun is that there will be a partial solar eclipse for most of the continental United States on Thursday afternoon, 23 October. Again, safe viewing practices should be taken as no parts of a partial solar eclipse can be viewed with the unfiltered naked eye! Here in Tucson about 40% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon, and just over 60% for the northern tier of states. Interestingly, if you did not know there was to be a solar eclipse, the casual observer might not notice it was going on! Maximum eclipse will occur about 3:30 pm Thursday afternoon in Tucson (Mountain Standard Time), and about 5:30 pm Central Daylight time. Unfortunately, there is no place on Earth to see a total solar eclipse this time, as the Moon's shadow misses the earth above the north pole. For more information and suggested ways to view the eclipse, check with the Sky and Telescope information page for the event.
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