Night Sky

By Collin O’Mara-Green

Solar Flares and Sunspots

Image Credit: David Pinsky

A while back I wrote about the cycles of our Sun, so let’s spend a bit more time on two major aspects of the Sun – sunspots and solar flares.

A sunspot is a cooler part of the Sun’s surface. With average surface temps of 10,000 F, the 6,700 F sunspots seem dark by comparison. They form when bends in the magnetic field lines dip into the sun, deflecting the rising hot plasma to the side. Similar to placing a small pot of water into a large boiling pot, displacing the rising hot water.

Solar flares also follow magnetic field lines that arc above the Sun. These rising bands of plasma can be many tens of times larger than the Earth. If the field lines snap, a blast of plasma is sent out into space, called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). This is the stuff that can cause blackouts and auroras on Earth.

As the sun continues into its active cycle, look for more images like this of our closest star.

Keep lookin’ up!

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