A gorgeous photo of our Sun by Alan Friedman, taken from his location in Buffalo, NY and uploaded to his site on February 7, shows a huge string of sunspots and an energetic region of prominences, as well as the granules and spicules that create the Sun’s surface texture. Sunspot 1045, the string seen here, is many tens of thousands of miles long and emits high-powered x-ray radiation and shortwave radio waves towards Earth. The radiation can actually be recorded as audio signals by radio astronomers…click here for some recordings from this large active region.
Sunspots are “cooler” areas on the sun’s surface, or photosphere, caused by fluctuations in the magnetic field that reduce convection to certain areas. This reduces the temperature of those areas, although they are still extremely hot – easily 7,000º F! In addition to cooler temperatures sunspots signal increased activity of solar flares, resulting in outpourings of radiation from the Sun into space. If these bursts of radiation come into contact with Earth they can result in radio and electronic interferences, increased auroral activity and can even knock out satellite communication.
Image © Alan Friedman, all rights reserved. Used with permission.