Q:

Why do sunspots occur?

A:

Quick Answer

The effects of the sun's internal magnetic fields entering and re-entering the surface of the sun result in sunspots. They typically occur in pairs with magnetic fields pointing in opposite directions.

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Full Answer

The magnetic field around a sunspot is approximately 2,500 times stronger than Earth's magnetic field. The strong magnetic field creates a great magnetic pressure while the surrounding atmospheric pressure decreases. The umbra is the dark part of the sunspot. Its temperature is 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit while the surrounding surface of the sun reaches 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in the dark color of the sunspot. Ultraviolet radiation greatly increases when sunspot activity is high, affecting Earth's atmosphere.

Coronal flares and solar mass injections occur near sunspots at the dividing line between areas of magnetic fields facing opposite directions. When sunspot activity is high, Earth experiences an increase in the northern and southern lights. This increase in solar flares and geomagnetic storms can also affect radio transmissions and Earth's power grid. The NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center makes predictions on sunspot activity by creating charts of solar cycles. From 1645 to 1715, the sun experienced a level of near zero sunspots called the Maunder Minimum. During this time, the "Little Ice Age" occurred in parts of Earth.

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Related Questions

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    Who discovered sunspots?

    A:

    According to The Galileo Project, the scientific discovery of sunspots is widely accredited to Galileo Galilei and Thomas Harriot. According to The Exploratorium, however, Johann Goldsmid and Christopher Schenier are also credited with the discovery of sunspots.

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  • Q:

    How do sunspots affect the Earth?

    A:

    Sunspots do not have any effect on the Earth in any significant way. If the sun was covered in sunspots, it could result in less light reaching Earth, but not enough to have any negative effect or even be noticed. However, magnetic anomalies associated with sunspots such as solar prominences, solar flares and coronal mass injections can eject energy particles that may affect power plants on Earth or satellites in orbit above Earth.

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    What is the difference between direct and indirect sunlight?

    A:

    Direct sunlight reaches the Earth's surface when there is no cloud cover between the sun and the Earth, while cloud cover causes indirect sunlight to reach the surface. In gardening, sunlight falling directly on the plant is direct sunlight, while indirect sunlight refers to shaded areas.

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    What is a granule on the sun?

    A:

    A granule is a cellular feature found on the surface of the sun that is caused by convection currents. Granules are situated atop convection cells, except in areas enveloped by sunspots, that release hot fluid from their interior. This process creates bright spots on the surface that sink inward.

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