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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light


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This is a picture of the sun taken in visible light by the Big Bear Solar Observatory last summer. Take a good long look. You might as well take advantage of this opportunity, because you cannot look directly at the sun in real life without hurting your eyes very badly.

It looks just like you thought it would doesn't it. Except for those two dark spots right near the middle. Those are sunspots.

The sun was very quiet when this picture was taken. At times there are a lot more sunspots on the surface.

Sunspots are places on the sun where solar "storms" may be developing. Solar "storms" are not storms as you know them. They are places where energy is being stored and may be released explosively.

These sunspots don't look very impressive. But wait until you see them in other types of light.

The two buttons below show the sun on the same day as the picture you have already seen. The first button is a picture of the sun in a type of red light called Hydrogen-Alpha. In this light sunspots can be seen very clearly. The second button is a picture of the sun in xrays. This is light far beyond purple. It is given off by very hot gases high above the visible surface of the sun. In this light, the very hot gases above the sunspots glow brightly.

All of these types of light help scientists understand things that happen on the sun.


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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF