(1) The Sun's Surface

About the Image: The data for the high resolution image of the solar surface was provided courtesy of P. Brandt (Kiepenheuer Institut fur Sonnenphysik, Freiburg, Germany), G. Sharmer (Uppsala, Sweden) and G. Simon (National Solar Observatory). Primary image processing by D. Shine, Lockheed Corporation.

Click here to see what the full sun looks like today in white light.

The Basic Facts About the Surface Layer

This is a very high resolution image of the sun in white light.

The sun is covered with grainy spots which are actually the tops of convection cells. The bright center of each cell is hot, rising material and the dark edges are cooler dropping gases. These grains are very similar to the cells in a bubbling pot of soup. Though they look very small, the cells are actually quite large (shown against a map of the US for size comparison). The layer of gas that is responsible for the visible light, that we see, is only as deep as the half width of Michigan.

The other very intersting feature in this picture is the dark sunspot. Sunspots are often associated with violent activity on the sun. They are an important tool for predicting space weather disturbances.

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