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These two pictures show sunspots on the Sun. Sunspots only form near the Sun's equator. They never form near the Sun's poles.
Click on image for full size
Images courtesy of SOHO/NASA/ESA.

The Sun's Poles

Earth has a North Pole, a South Pole, and an equator. The Sun does too! Some things are different at the Sun's poles from the way they are near the Sun's equator.

The Sun has a magnetic field. The Sun's magnetic field has a North Magnetic Pole and a South Magnetic Pole. About every 11 years, the Sun's magnetic poles flip. North becomes South and South becomes North.

Did you know that the Sun has spots? Sunspots are dark places on the "surface" of the Sun. The magnetic field around sunspots is much, much stronger than normal. Sunspots only show up near the Sun's equator. We never see sunspots near the Sun's poles.

The Sun is a bit like a huge ball. However, it is not a solid ball. It is a ball made of gas and plasma. Some parts of the Sun-ball spin around faster than other parts. The part near the equator spins fastest. Places near the poles spin around more slowly.

The Sun has an atmosphere. The Sun's atmosphere near the poles is different from its atmosphere near the equator. The corona is part of the Sun's atmosphere. The corona sticks out further from the Sun's surface near the equator. The corona doesn't stick out as far above the poles. The solar wind is also different at the poles. It "blows" much faster above the poles than it does above the Sun's equator.

Last modified June 11, 2009 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