Cyclopean Sunspot Rolls Into View

Sunspot #2546 rounds the sun's eastern limb bigger than Earth in this photo taken earlier today by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA
Sunspot #2546 rounds the sun’s eastern limb bigger than Earth in this photo taken earlier today by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA

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.

A full view of the sun today shows the big spot to the east and several other groups. Although more humble in appearance, sunspot group 2544 at upper right has been busy popping off small flares. Credit: NASA
A full view of the sun today shows the big spot to the east and several other groups. Although more humble in appearance, sunspot group 2544 at upper right has been busy popping off small flares the past few days. Credit: NASA

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.

2 Responses

  1. Michael Sangster

    Bob,

    Just saw the Sunspot today, using just a solar filter held up (naked eye). It was easy to see.

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