August 21, 2002
The above photos of the Sun were taken on two different days last week. The photo at right was taken on August 15, 24 hours after the left photo was captured. A digital camera was held up to the eyepiece of a telescope to make these shots. While July was quite an active month for sunspots (we're just past the peak of the 11-year solar cycle), the picures above appear to show a rather quiet Sun.
Sunspots are planet-sized blobs, held firm on the Sun's surface (photosphere) by powerful magnetic fields. Not only has the large sunspot cluster, shown above, moved across the face of the Sun as the Sun rotated, but the spots themselves have changed their original position in relation to each other during the 24 hour period. This lonely grouping of spots was large enough to see with the unaided eye, but of course, extreme caution must be used when looking at the Sun. Use eclipse glasses, for example, and view the Sun when it's dimmed by thin clouds or lies near the horizon.