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Two large sunspots group 1164 and 1166 are now both visible to the naked eye through a safe solar filter. Click to enlarge. Credit: SOHO/SDO/HMI

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BIG SUNSPOTS: Sunspots 1164 and 1166 are so large, people are noticing them at sunrise and sunset when the sun is dimmed by clouds and haze. The dark cores of these regions are many times wider than Earth, so they are conspicuous even from a distance of 93 million miles. Readers who monitor the spots using properly-filtered backyard telescopes are likely to see flares in action; sunspot 1164 in particular has a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class eruptions.

AURORA WATCH: A coronal mass ejection (CME) is en route to Earth, due to arrive on March 6th. The CME is slow-moving and not especially massive. Nevertheless, its arrival could provoke geomagnetic storms around the Arctic Circle. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

Even without a CME, the skies over Abisko National Park in Sweden are already active. Chad Blakley took this picture before daybreak on March 5th:

“As I was eating dinner a friend of mine called and told me to stop whatever I was doing, grab my camera, and run outside,” says Blakley. “I was not disappointed with what I saw. The auroras just keep getting better. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this great season has to offer.”

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