The Sun

By Adam Paull

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The Sun's Spots

Sunspots are darker, cooler areas on the surface of the sun in a region called the photo-sphere. The photo-sphere has a temperature of 5,800 degrees Kelvin. Sunspots have temperatures of about 3,800 degrees K. They look dark only in comparison with the brighter and hotter regions of the photo-sphere around them. Sunspots can be very large, up to 50,000 kilometers in diameter. They are caused by interactions with the Sun's magnetic field which are not fully understood. But a sunspot is somewhat like the cap on a soda bottle: shake it up, and you can generate a big eruption. Sunspots occur over regions of intense magnetic activity, and when that energy is released, solar flares and big storms called coronal mass ejections erupt from sunspots.

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Prominence of the sun

A solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk) is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun's surface. Prominences are anchored to the Sun's surface in the photo-sphere, and extend outwards into the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, called the corona.
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The flare of the sun

A flare is defined as a sudden, rapid, and intense variation in brightness. A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released. Radiation is emitted across virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves at the long wavelength end, through optical emission to x-rays and gamma rays at the short wavelength end. The amount of energy released is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time! The first solar flare recorded in astronomical literature was on September 1, 1859. Two scientists, Richard C. Carrington and Richard Hodgson, were independently observing sunspots at the time, when they viewed a large flare in white light.
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The aurora of the sun

Named for the Roman goddess of dawn, the aurora is a mysterious and unpredictable display of light in the night sky. The aurora borealis and aurora australis – often called the northern lights and southern lights – are common occurrences at high northern and southern latitudes, less frequent at mid-latitudes, and seldom seen near the equator. While usually a milky greenish color, auroras can also show red, blue, violet, pink, and white. These colors appear in a variety of continuously changing shapes. Sometimes the aurora is so dim and scattered as to be mistaken for clouds or the Milky Way; sometimes it is bright enough to read by.