SUNSPOT AR1618--UPDATE: Sunspot AR1618 has experienced some decay during the past 24 hours, but it is still potent. The sunspot's magnetic canopy has a 'beta-gamma-delta' configuration that harbors energy for X-class solar flares. Because of the sunspot's nearly central location on the solar disk, any eruptions today would be Earth-directed.
A sunspot, like AR1618, is a vast island of magnetism floating on the surface of the sun. Magnetic fields bubble up from the sun's interior to form the sunspot's dark cores much like a Pacific island forming from the lava of an undersea volcano. Phil Scherrer, a member of the Solar Dynamics Observatory science team at Stanford University, has prepared an 8-day movie showing the genesis of AR1618: [go to www.spaceweather.com to watch movie]