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What Causes Sunspots

If you have ever looked at the sun in pictures or through a special telescope you would have noticed the darker patches on the suns surface. These are called sunspots and they are temporary dark spots on the photosphere of the sun. Sunspots are a region on the sun surface that is a different temperature than that of the surrounding area. It is darker in color because it is cooler than the rest of the sun.

What Causes Sunspots?
Sunspots are caused by fluctuation in the magnetic fields of the sun. A sunspot is where a magnetic field line emanates form the suns surface just like the poles of a magnet. Sunspots almost always appear in pairs for this reason. The magnetic field lines of the sun get wound up inside the convective zone of the sun. The matter in this zone moves around similarly to the wax inside a lava lamp. The magnetic lines become so wound up that they can rise from inside the sun to the surface creating sunspots. The change in the magnetic field of the suns photosphere causes that particular area of the sun to cool and that is why a viable dark spot is seen.

Sunspots can last for days or for weeks depending on the size of the magnetic field line. They are always temporary though, and will not mar the suns surface forever. Sunspot activity cycles about every eleven years. The point of highest sunspot activity during this cycle is known as Solar Maximum, and the point of lowest activity is Solar Minimum. Early in the cycle, sunspots appear in the higher latitudes and then move towards the equator as the cycle approaches maximum. Sunspots can be observed from earth and during sunset on some evenings sunspots can be seen clearly on the sun.

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