NASA scientists studying the Sun have detected a huge group of dark spots in the center of the star that are visible from 150 million kilometers away on Earth.
the stains, known as sunspots, may look like mere specks on the solar surface from here, but they can actually be the size of entire planets, with strong magnetic fields, thousands of times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field. The spots appear dark because they are much cooler than the surrounding parts of the sun.
“If you have eclipse glasses and good vision, you may be able to see it without magnification,” the US space agency said on X, formerly known as Twitter. NASA then quickly reminded people to never look directly at the sun without the correct sun filters.
A solar eclipse can cook your eyes. This is when to put on your glasses.
The tweet may have been deleted.
Many followers commented that they were able to see the new group of sunspots, which can usually last for days or weeks before disappearing. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has been tracking the cluster, with images of the sun in real time.
Like storm seasons on Earth, the Sun experiences a weather pattern that repeats every 11 years. At the beginning and end of the cycle, that activity is at its calmest. But solar activity increases and peaks mid-cycle, causing the sun to become cloudy with giant flares.
Right now that cycle is about to peak, close to peaking in mid-2025. That’s why reports of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (plasma spewed from the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona ) abound in the news. Millions of Americans will have the rare opportunity to see this feistier version of the corona with the naked eye for a few minutes during the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8.
Crushable speed of light
Sunspots form in areas of the sun where magnetic fields are particularly strong.
Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/HMI/Goddard Space Flight Center
“It’s the space equivalent of hurricane season. We’re entering another one,” Mark Miesch, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, previously told Mashable.
Sunspots They form in areas of the sun where magnetic fields are particularly strong. The magnetic field lines near sunspots often become entangled. That can cause a sudden explosion in the form of a solar flare, which releases a torrent of radiation into space, rising toward Earth.
Solar scientists have a limited ability to predict “Space Weather” Events but they are studying the sun to better understand violent solar flares and how they impact Earth. Earth’s strong and vast magnetic field and atmosphere work to protect humans from being harmed by its effects. The field, produced by charged molten iron churning in the planet’s core, keeps away most of the charged solar gases flowing from the sun, “just like an umbrella works during a storm,” according to NASA.
The spots, known as sunspots, may look like mere specks on the solar surface from here, but they can actually be the size of entire planets.
But space weather events can have consequences for life on Earth in other ways, such as disruptions to power grids, telecommunications and GPS systems. These events are rare, but a solar flare in March 1989 caused all of Quebec, Canada, to suffer a 12-hour blackout. He also jammed the radio signals of Radio Free Europe.
If you plan to try to see sunspots, make sure you have reputable solar eclipse glasses on.
“It’s the space equivalent of hurricane season.”
Without special protective glasses, the retinas begin to absorb light from the sun.
Credit: MARK RALSTON / AFP via Getty Images
Without special protective glasses, the retinas begin to absorb the light coming in from the sun. Once those light receptors are flooded, the excess passes to the retina and is instead absorbed by the dark pigment that lines the eyeballs. That’s when cells start to come under chemical attack, said Dr. Ralph Chou, a retired optometrist and one of the world’s leading experts on solar eclipse filters.
“The big danger with this is that when the pigment absorbs the excess radiation, it converts it to heat and raises the temperature inside the cells to the point where it actually starts to cook the tissue,” he said. “That leaves you with a permanent scar that can’t be repaired.”