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These are pictures of sunspots. The picture on the left shows the whole Sun. There are two groups of sunspots on the Sun. The picture on the right is a close-up look at a sunspot.
Click on image for full size
Images courtesy SOHO (NASA & ESA) and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Sunspots

Sunspots are dark spots on the Sun. They may look small, but they are actually as big as a planet like Earth or Mars!

Sunspots are "dark" because they are colder than the areas around them. Of course, they are not really cold like we think of cold! A large sunspot might have a temperature of about 3,700° C or 6,700° F!

Areas around sunspots called active regions on the Sun can lead to solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs for short). The solar activity of flares and CMEs are called "solar storms".

Sunspots can last for weeks or even months. The number of spots on the face of the Sun is not always the same, but goes up and down in a cycle. Over time, astronomers have used different instruments to look at how many sunspots are on the Sun, but remember that you should NEVER LOOK directly at the Sun!

Other stars have spots too. They are called "starspots".

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 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