Exploring Sunspots!

by Alyssa Hui

Have you ever wondered what sunspots are, what they look like, what color they are, and how they are formed? After researching, I have discovered a very interesting experiment created by scientists called Sunspotters. The Sunspotters research team explored how you can identify what a sunspot actually is and how you can distinguish them by their complexity (Sunspotters can be found here).


  A screen shot from the Sunspotters project, where users compare black and white images of sunspots and choose which image is more complex. 

Sunspots can be exactly the way they are pronounced, they are dark spots that are located on the sun. Think of having dark circular spots on your face or body, but instead of on your body, they are on the Sun. Exploring sunspots is something I am interested in and I hope that I show you how sunspots are fascinating.

Imagine, we are scientists creating robotic probes to travel to the Sun. Since the Sun is 93,000,000 million miles away it would take approximately 221 days for the US Space Shuttle to reach it. After several years of research we have found information about sunspots never revealed before, including uncovered images of what sunspots look like.

sunspots2 sunspots3






Citation: First image: Digital image. New Photos Of The Sun Reveal ‘Never-Before-Seen’ Features Of Sunspots And Solar Magnetism In Solar Atmosphere. Charles Poladian, 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 June 2014.

Second image: Image of sunspots on the sun. Digital image. Sunspots: A Brief History. Canadian Space Agency, 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 June 2014.


Sunspots are darker, cooler areas on the surface of the Sun in a region called the photosphere. The photosphere of a huge object is the distance of a star’s outer shell from which light is spread. Sunspots are formed continuously as magnetic fields move through the Sun. Sunspots have two main regions. Sunspots are composed of one dark shade or shadow surrounded by a less-dark outer part.  To be more specific, a very dark part in the middle is called the umbra, and a less dark outer part is called the penumbra.  Take a look at a few images that reveal the umbra and penumbra of dark spots.








TOP: This is the penumbra-which is the less dark outer part of a sunspot.  BOTTOM: This is the umbra-which is the very dark part in the middle of a sunspot (images from http://www.suntrek.org/solar-surface-below/sunspots/what-sunspots-look-like.shtml )




 To view a closer image of a sunspot, click the web page link below. It is a short clip about a sunspot taken by “La Palma” Observatory.  LINK:http://www.suntrek.org/solar-surface-below/sunspots/what-sunspots-look-like.shtml

To read and learn about an experiment that scientists are currently working on about sunspots, please feel free to return to the Astro-Journalist web page fairly soon. I hope you have enjoyed my very first blog post. To learn more about sunspots you can visit the Sunspotters project. I hope you all enjoyed exploring teen blog posts about astronomy. I will continue to blog on the Astro-Journalist web page so please come back and visit soon. Thank you once again.


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