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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 15:40 GMT
Sunspots return for more storms
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

The giant solar flares are coming back
Peeking over the limb and heading our way
The giant sunspots that produced the largest explosion ever seen on the surface of our star are set to return.

They are moving back into view of the Earth after being carried to the Sun's far side by its 27-day rotation period.

Astronomers say that even out of direct vision the spots have continued to eject clouds of super-hot material.

The spots will point Earthwards again on 19 November. Although still very active, they are not expected to give out another X28-class solar fare.

Other side

Sunspot groups 486 and 488 produced record-breaking explosions earlier this month even though the Sun is supposed to be entering a period of declining activity - the peak of its 11-year cycle was a few years ago.

As the Sun's rotation took the groups out of view, astronomers were still able to keep an eye on them using a technique called helioseismic holography.

This allows the scientists to "look through" the Sun to see spot activity on the far side.

The holographic maps revealed 486 and 488 to still be active.

While on the far side of the Sun, explosions from their vicinity have been hurling clouds of gas over the Sun's limb in recent days.

Build up

The Sun's rotation will soon carry the pair back to the Earth-facing side of the star.

As they are still active, astronomers believe we are set for more solar storms when they reappear on or about Wednesday.

Indeed, the precursors to the giant sunspot groups are just reappearing with the active region 484 just peeking over the Sun's eastern limb.

The spot looks smaller than it did in late October, but it too remains active - hurling a bright mass ejection into space on 13 November.

Solar flare confirmed as biggest
07 Nov 03  |  Science/Nature
What is happening to the Sun?
04 Nov 03  |  Science/Nature
Our Sun's regular mood swings
28 Oct 03  |  Science/Nature

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