Cool Areas on the Sun: Facts about Sunspots

It is hard to imagine that the sun has variations on its surface. Most of us think of it as a giant ball of heat. We expect planets and moons to have different textures and colors, however. The sun is pretty complex, as well. There is a magnetic field on the sun that affects several areas, making them cooler than the majority of the sun. They seem to me more apparent during years of the solar maximum, when there is more solar activity. The sun has solar cycles that last about 11 years. The solar activity varies within these cycles. During the solar minimum, sunspot activity is low or non-existent.

Temperature and Brightness

A sunspot is known to be much cooler than the rest of the sun. This is not at all comparable to what we actually consider cool, however. The majority of the sun burns at about 5500 degrees Celsius. The average sunspot maxes out around 3700 degrees Celsius, so you still don’t need a winter coat to hang out in one. It does, however, make a considerable difference in how bright the area shines. If a sunspot were to stand alone in the atmosphere, it is estimated that the light is shared would be similar to that of a full moon. This is significantly dull compared to the rest of the sun that we must shade our eyes to look at.

Appearance and Eruption 

Sunspots are made up of two parts. The center of a sunspot, its darkest area, is known as the umbra. The lighter area that surrounds it is called the penumbra. In a diagram, this looks a bit like a sunflower with a dark center. These spots can grow to be larger than planet Earth. There are some areas on the sun that house groups of sunspots. This is often called an active region. The sunspots that face the earth are tested regularly for the possibility of eruption. The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. At times they can cause solar flares. This depends on their magnetic formation. The magnetic field from the center of the sun causes the sunspots in the first place.

The sun shows variations on the surface that are affected by its magnetic field. These sunspots are often present in groups and may pose the threat of eruption. Details observations has led to several different classifications of sunspots, all determined by their polarity and magnetic configuration. They are much more than a simple spot with a variation in temperature.

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