Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
This movie shows how the Sun's magnetic field gets tangled up as the Sun spins around.
Animation courtesy of SOHO (ESA & NASA).

Magnetic Field Lines Get Tangled as Sun Spins

Different parts of the Sun spin around at different speeds. The Sun's equator spins fastest. The poles spin more slowly. This makes the Sun's magnetic field get all tangled up. Loops in the tangled magnetic field poke through the Sun's surface sometimes. When they do, they make sunspots.

There are lots of sunspots about every 11 years. That's when the magnetic field is really tangled up. When the magnetic field isn't tangled, there aren't many sunspots. This cycle goes back and forth every 11 year. Scientists call it the sunspot cycle.

Right-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac) on any of the following links to download a copy of this video in QuickTime or MPEG formats: large (3.7 MB) QuickTime, small (919 KB) QuickTime, large (2 MB) MPEG, or small (714 KB) MPEG.

Last modified December 31, 2009 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Sun's Magnetic Field

Text for this level has not been written yet. Please see the "Intermediate" text for this page if you want to learn about this topic. To get to the "Intermediate" text, click on the blue "Intermediate"...more

The Photosphere - the "Surface" of the Sun

Most of the energy we receive from the Sun is the visible (white) light emitted from the photosphere. The photosphere is one of the coolest regions of the Sun (6000 K), so only a small fraction (0.1%)...more

Sunspots and Magnetic Fields

You probably have magnets on your refrigerator holding up some of your artwork or a photograph of a friend or family. Did you know that it is magnetic fields (which all magnets have) that make sunspots...more

The Magnetic Field

The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. Here's another picture of how this works. This picture shows where the magnetic poles of the Earth are to...more

Maunder's Butterfly Diagram

Throughout the solar_cycle, the latitude of sunspot occurrence varies with an interesting pattern. The plot on the left shows the latitude of sunspot occurence versus time (in years). Sunspots are typically...more

Creating Elements up to Iron

When the temperature in the core of a star is really hot (100 million degrees Kelvin!) fusion of Helium into Carbon happens. Oxygen is also formed when the temperature is this high. When it gets even hotter...more

Binding Energy

A plot of the binding energy per nucleon vs. atomic mass shows a peak atomic number 56 (Iron). Elements with atomic mass less then 56 release energy if formed as a result of a fusion reaction. Above this...more

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