Monster Sunspot Dominates Sun Photos by Amateur Astronomers

Sunspot AR 1944
Giuseppe Petricca sent this HDR filtered photo of the sun with sunspot AR 1944 visible toward the center. Petricca took this photo on Jan. 7 from Sulmona, Italy using a Nikon P90 bridge camera on a tripod (ISO 64, f/6.3, 1/1200" exposure). Welding glass was used giving the photo a green color. (Image credit: Giuseppe Petricca)

Amateur astronomers have safely captured amazing views of a colossal sunspot seven times the size of Earth that is currently making its way across the face of the sun.

Stargazer Giuseppe Petricca of Sulmona, Italy, sent a series spectacular images of the massive, active sunspot region AR1944. The sunspot unleashed the first major solar flare of 2014 on Tuesday (Jan. 7) in the form of an X1.2-class sun storm, which is the strongest class of solar flares the sun experiences. 

"The sunspot is really big, visible even to the naked eye, using the appropriate filters," Petricca wrote in an email, adding that some high level clouds helped in filtering the solar light. [See more photos of the monster sunspot and solar flare]

This image shows the sun with massive sunspot AR 1944 visible near the center of the image. Giuseppe Petricca took this photo on Jan. 7 from Sulmona, Italy using a Nikon P90 bridge camera on a tripod (ISO 64, f/6.3, 1/1200" exposure). (Image credit: Giuseppe Petricca)

The images were taken Jan. 7 from Sulmona, Italy using a Nikon P90 bridge camera on a tripod (ISO 64, f/6.3, 1/1200" exposure). Petricca used simple welding glass on the HDR filtered images, giving those images a green color. "The spot cores and structures are easily recognizable even with this little magnification," Petricca said.

On Wednesday (Jan. 8), amateur astronomer Andrew Kwon of Mississauga, Ontario, snapped his own view of sunspot AR1944 from his backyard observatory. Kwon's image revealed a zoomed-in view of the enormous sunspot, as seen through a 60mm solarmax II H-Alpha telescope and an AS120mm monochrome camera.

AR1944 is "the largest sunspot group I can recall seeing [in] four years of solar observing," Kwon wrote in an email.

Astrophotographer Andrew Kwon sent in a photo of sunspot group 1944 taken on Jan. 8, 2014, from his backyard observatory in Mississauga, Ontario. (Image credit: Andrew Kwon)

Warning: Never look directly at the sun through binoculars, telescopes or with your unaided eye. Severe eye damage, and even blindness, can result. Astronomers use special filters to safely observe the sun and protective glasses are required for solar eclipse viewing.

Tuesday's massive solar flare delayed commercial spaceflight company Orbital Sciences’ plans to launch a landmark cargo delivery flight to the space station today (Jan. 8) due to concern over space weather radiation.

The sun is currently in an active phase of Solar Cycle 24. Solar weather cycles average 11 years, with Solar Cycle 24 beginning in 2008.

To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by readers, visit our astrophotography archive.

Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at

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Contributing Writer and Producer

Nina Sen is a freelance writer and producer who covered night sky photography and astronomy for She began writing and producing content for in 2011 with a focus on story and image production, as well as amazing space photos captured by NASA telescopes and other missions. Her work also includes coverage of amazing images by astrophotographers that showcase the night sky's beauty.