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Sunspots come in pairs with opposite magnetic polarity. If we could bury a giant horseshoe magnet beneath the surface of the Sun, it would produce a magnetic field similar to that generated by a sunspot pair.
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Windows to the Universe original artwork by Randy Russell using an image from NASA's TRACE (Transition Region and Coronal Explorer) spacecraft.

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 on the Sun?

The magnetic fields are like "ropes" that break through the "surface" (photosphere) of the Sun. Where the rope comes up from the solar surface is one sunspot and where the rope goes into the photosphere is another sunspot.

When the magnetic ropes get too twisted, they can pop! This lets off huge bursts of energy in solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).

Last modified January 19, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA