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NASA instrument sees giant sunspot forming

Feb. 20, 2013 at 6:43 PM

GREENBELT, Md., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- NASA says it Solar Dynamics Observatory has detected a giant sunspot that has grown to over six times the diameter of Earth in the last two days.

Sunspots form on the sun's surface as magnetic fields rearrange and realign.

Beginning Tuesday, instruments on the solar observatory detected a sunspot that grew to giant proportions in just under 48 hours, the space agency said Wednesday.

The spot has quickly grown into what astronomers call a delta region, in which the lighter areas around the sunspot, known as the penumbra, exhibit magnetic fields that point in the opposite direction of those fields in the center, dark area, NASA said.

This is a fairly unstable configuration that scientists have confirmed can lead to eruptions of radiation on the sun called solar flares, it said.

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