Our solar system’s central star, or the Sun as we know it is a fascinating piece of an everlasting cosmic puzzle. With tremendous achievements made in the realm of remote space exploration over the last decade, we now have visual access to our solar system unlike ever before.
A beautiful new time-lapse photo shows shape-shifting sunspots moving across the Sun’s surface. An image is never just an image in space – scientists noted that the total number of sunspots on our host star was at its highest in eight years. This means that solar activity could increase further.
Sun’s entering active phase
The new time-lapse photo was created by Şenol Şanlı, an amateur astrophotographer from Turkey. For this purpose, Şanlı used data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. The image was shared on his Instagram on January 3 and is a composite of two individual images taken between December 2 and December 27, 2022.
The two different bands of sunspots that can be seen in the image belong to two sunspot groups – A3176, located in the Sun’s northern hemisphere; and A3153, in the Sun’s southern hemisphere, as reported by Space.com. Both of these sunspot groups moved from east to west (right to left in the image).
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By removing other visible sunspots from the images, Şanlı brought to attention the smallest changes in the sunspot groups.
While these spots might look small and benign from Earth, they’re actually bigger than most planets in our solar system. Sunspots are also not black, but appear dark owing to their cooler temperatures compared to rest of the star.
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Sunspots are of immense interest to scientists for solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) emanate from such spots. In December 2022, more than 113 sunspots were detected on the Sun’s surface – the highest number since 2014 according to Space Weather Prediction Center.
The Sun is currently entering the active phase of its 11-year solar cycle, which scientists think should peak in 2025. What do you think about these beautiful sunspots? Let us know in the comments below.
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Baker, H. (2023, January 15). Incredible time-lapse photo captures the sun during an 8-year sunspot peak. Space.com. https://www.space.com/sunspot-timelapse-december-2022