Explained: What are Sunspots?

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News: A massive Sunspot group, AR2770 was observed using images of the Sun’s surface from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory(SDO).

Facts:

  • Sunspots: It is an area on the Sun that appears dark on the surface and is relatively cooler than surrounding parts. 
  • Why are sunspots relatively cool: It’s because they form at areas where magnetic fields are particularly strong.These magnetic fields are so strong that they keep some of the heat within the Sun from reaching the surface.
  • Significance: These spots are the visible markers of the Sun’s magnetic field which forms a blanket that protects the solar system from harmful cosmic radiation.

Additional Facts:

  • Solar Cycle: It is the cycle that the Sun’s magnetic field goes through approximately every 11 years.The greatest number of sunspots in any given solar cycle is designated as solar maximum.The lowest number is solar minimum.
  • Solar Flares: The magnetic field lines near sunspots often tangle, cross, and reorganize.This can cause a sudden explosion of energy called a solar flare. 
    • Solar flares release a lot of radiation into space.If a solar flare is very intense, the radiation it releases can interfere with our radio communications here on Earth.
  • Coronal Mass Ejection(CME): These are huge bubbles of radiation and particles from the Sun.They explode into space at very high speed when the Sun’s magnetic field lines suddenly reorganize.