Sunspots

Sunspots

Sunspots are dark spots on the Sun caused its magnetic field. The spots are dark because they are cooler than the area of the Sun that surrounds them and are often as big as the Earth.

The number of sunspots is controlled by the amount of distortion of the Sun's magnetic field. The magnetic field becomes distorted because the Sun's equator and core rotate more quickly than its other parts. As a result, sunspot activity varies over an average 11-year cycle. Over approximately 11 years, the Sun goes from a solar minimum (fewer spots) to a solar maximum (more spots) and back to a minimum again.

Photo: Sunspots as seen by the SOHO probe (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

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Sunspots

About Sunspots

Sunspots can be as big as the Earth.

About Sunspots

The solar cycle or solar magnetic activity cycle is the periodic change in the Sun's activity (including changes in the levels of solar radiation and ejection of solar material) and appearance (changes in the number of sunspots, flares and other manifestations). Solar cycles have an average duration of about 11 years. They have been observed (by changes in the sun's appearance and by changes seen on Earth, such as auroras) for centuries.

Cycles cause changes on the sun, in space, in the atmosphere and on the Earth's surface. While it is the dominant variable in solar activity, aperiodic fluctuations also occur.

It is powered by changes in the sun's interior.

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