Try Out Your Eclipse Glasses On This Big Sunspot

Sunspot region 2665 is nearly 10 times the size of Earth in this photo captured today by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Explorer. The leader spot (right) has a large, dark umbra surrounded by a penumbra. Sunspots are regions where magnetic energy is concentrated on the sun’s surface. When opposing magnetic fields get twisted and by turbulence, they can cross and release their energy as flares. Credit: NASA

A rapidly growing sunspot that rotated around the Sun’s limb several days ago has now expanded to about 78,000 miles (125,000 km) across, only 10,000 miles shy of Jupiter’s girth. It was easy to see with the naked eye as a small, dark imperfection on the sun’s otherwise spotless face through my #14 welder’s glass today. Sorta like a fly on a window.

   If you’ve already purchased a set of safe eclipse glasses in preparation for the August eclipse, don them and take a look for yourself. Yes, the sunspot’s that big! If you don’t have eclipse glasses or a filter, click here. Remember that any filter you might use for an eclipse works every day of the year for solar viewing. I alternate between glasses and a #14 welder’s filter, another safe alternative.

Region 2665 is one of the largest of the year so far; the only one similar in size appeared in late March. Given that we’re now heading toward the minimum of the sunspot cycle, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to safely view a huge sunspot. As always, NEVER look directly at the sun without an appropriate filter.

This photo shows the sunspot group before yesterday’s  flare explosion, while the one below captures the flare itself a few minutes later. Nearly all flares are invisible in regular light, but when viewed through a special hydrogen-alpha filter, as shown in these photos, they stand out. The sun looks dramatically different because the filter reveals a layer of solar gases above the shiny, bright surface called the chromosphere or “sphere of color.” Credit: Chris Schur
Seeing a solar flare in real time is a profound experience that you have to see in real time to fully appreciate. Chris Schur of Payson, Arizona got lucky and also captured a great photo. Compare this to the pre-flare image. Credit: Chris Schur

Through my filtered 3-inch refracting telescope, region 2665 was a stunner this morning. The large leader spot displayed an eye-catching black core called an umbra trailed by about a dozen tiny, black spots and a couple medium-sized ones. The group has cracked off a bunch of flares the past two days and has a messy magnetic field, so more fireworks are expected. Should 2665 continue to sputter with flares as it passes near the center of the sun’s disk a couple days from now, we might expect some northern lights by week’s end.

A colorful moon, a little past full, rises over a cool blue Lake Superior yesterday after sunset. Credit: Bob King

I couldn’t resist photographing the moonrise last night; the temporary haze from Canadian forest fires gave the moon some extra color at the same time dimming its light. Tonight, the moon will still appear nearly full as it continues to move east and rise later.

2 Responses

  1. Ztom.com

    About the SUNSPOT on the SUN :- These BLACK SUNSPOTS on the SUN , are of ZTOM PARTICLES ( Plasma of atoms ) . Thanks !!

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