Three large sunspots have appeared near the Sun's equator within the last few days. Each spot is at least three times wider than the Earth, and they continue to grow quickly. Based on their magnetic polarity, these sunspots are not associated with the new Solar Cycle 24, but with the old Solar Cycle 23. The new Solar Cycle 24 started Jan 4, 2008. Activity right now is very low, as is normal for this part of the cycle. The last peak in solar activity was during 2000-2002, and activity has declined ever since then.
These sunspots can emit solar flares. The latest one to form emitted one yesterday, a medium sized "M-class" flare. This size flare can cause brief radio blackouts in Earth's polar regions.
In addition to these sunspots, there is a large coronal hole near the sunspots. A solar wind stream is coming from this hole, and it is expected to reach Earth on Friday or Saturday. This stream can make great auroras in the northern latitudes.
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In other space news, Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to land this evening at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You can watch a live stream from NASA TV here.
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