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Here's the Sun as it appeared to Earthlings on October 25, 2003. The dark
patches on the otherwise uniform-looking disk are sunspots. The ones on this
image are among the largest ever seen.
Sunspots are associated with intense magnetic fields, wwhich are constantly
changing. Often, they snap, releasing vast quantities of energy as flares and
in the form of X-ray an dparticle radiation. This happened oseveral times
between late October and early November 2003. the resulting particle
radiation mad it to Earth and produced spectacular auroral displays
several times during the period (see October image and caption).
On November 3, 2003, one of these sunspots produce dthe most powerful
explosin ever observed in the solar system. Since the flare occured in the
on the Sun's limb, its particle radiation was not directed towards us.