There are countless stars in our galaxy and beyond, in the distant universe. Many are larger and more massive than our home star, the sun. Given its close proximity to earth, our sun offers many breathtaking phenomena that are easily visible with basic astronomical equipment.
Let’s take a closer look at one of those phenomena known as sunspots. Sunspots are believed to occur as a result of extreme magnetic activity. This inhibits convection and results in the diffusion of heat in those areas. These areas, while appearing dark compared to the rest of the sun, are still brighter than an arc welder’s electrical arc.
The majority of the sun’s surface reaches temperatures of up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. These temporary dark areas are thought to be only around 6,000 degrees.
Sunspots vary greatly in size, and some have been measured at up to 50,000 miles wide.
Theophrastus, a student of Plato and Aristotle, was one of the first to write of the existence of sunspots.
Sunspot activity has a cycle, and over the last few hundred years, we have observed periods of extreme activity and periods with relatively few observations.
A small telescope is perfect for viewing the sun and will allow you to see the tiny black spots on the surface.
Remember: never look at the sun without the proper equipment. You must have the correct solar filter for the telescope, or serious optical damage and permanent eye damage will occur.
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