Solar Maelstrom

A magnetic whirlpool surrounds a sunspot. SDO (AIA 304) image detail.

A powerful sunspot creates a spinning whirlpool of magnetic activity around itself in this detail from an SDO image (AIA 304) taken today, June 24.

Sunspots are darker areas on the sun’s surface (photosphere) where a “bubble” of magnetic fields have risen from the interior and “pushed aside” the hotter layers at the surface to reveal the relatively cooler layer just beneath. These magnetic fields continue rising into the sun’s atmosphere, often carrying superheated plasma within them which glow as coronal loops and flares. If the magnetic fields are strong enough they may extend far outwards before “snapping”, releasing huge amounts of solar material into space as a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME.

I rotated the original SDO image about 120º clockwise and cropped it to what you see here, and sharpened/adjusted levels to bring out details better. This particular sunspot is located on the sun’s southern hemisphere.

Read more about sunspots here: lightsinthedark.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/the-prodigal-sun….

Image courtesy of SDO (NASA) and the AIA consortium. (Edited by J. Major.)

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