In ancient Greek mythology, a Cyclops was a member of an ancient race of giants, each with only a single in the middle of his forehead. A new large sunspot feels like the return of this ancient strain as it rounds the limb and comes into clear view this week. I spotted it – excuse the pun – today through a #14 welder’s glass. Not an easy sighting, but that’s only because it’s still near the sun’s edge. The sunspot should become easier to see as it rotates more directly into view.
At the moment it’s “quiet” or not producing any significant flares. The current solar hot spot is another group, 2544, west of center in the solar northern hemisphere, which has been crackling with small C-class flares. If we see any aurora tonight — and there’s a small chance — its origin is yet another high-speed stream of material from a recent coronal hole.
Sunspots are regions on the sun of intense magnetism, thousands of time stronger than Earth’s magnetic field. The field in effect keeps the sun’s blazing hot plasma (the shiny surface we see) at bay, making spots cooler by about 3,000 degrees compared to their surroundings. Cooler means they give off less light and so appear darker than their surroundings. Magnetic field strengths within sunspots range from 1,000 to 4,000 Gauss compared to Earth’s average surface field strength of about 0.5 Gauss.
Because the sun’s magnetism is forever changing, sunspots are temporary with lives ranging from hours to months. We’ll be keeping watch on this this new Cyclops to see whether or not he gets feisty.