Here is the sunspot! – Astronomy now
A new major sunspot has just turned in the area of the southeast limb of the Sun’s photosphere. Sunspot officially designated AR2887, it was first seen around the limb of the Sun on October 22. Just 24 hours later, it had doubled in size and exhibited dramatically increased complexity as it cleaned the limb from the Sun and astronomers could better observe it.
Additionally, solar spacecraft are keeping an eye out for three other active regions on the other side of the Sun (not yet numbered) that will soon be visible. Indeed, the image above, taken on October 24 by the Solar Dynamics Observatory of NASA, already shows evidence at the level of the eastern limb of the Sun.
What are sunspots?
Sunspots are temporary regions of intense magnetic disturbance that result in cooler regions on the Sun’s photosphere that appear darker in contrast to their surroundings. Sunspots can appear individually or in groups and can last for weeks or months.
Sunspots occur on an average cycle of 11 years and currently the Sun is not long in cycle 25, which began in December 2019 and is expected to continue until 2030. In 2019, 281 days – 77% – were spotless to 208 spotless days. days (57%) in 2020. So far this year, only 60 days (20%) have passed without a visible sunspot, so solar activity resumes as we move towards the solar maximum and experience a maximum sunspots; so the Sun never seems to be without some sunspots. The last solar maximum took place in 2013/2014.
A release of accumulated energy in the sunspot region can cause solar flares and colossal solar storms called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) previously reported that AR2887 produced several Class B flares (flares are rated A, B, C, M or X, X being the most powerful).
As AR2887 turns to Earth over the coming week, astronomers will be on the lookout for other ejections that could potentially be heading our way. CMEs can interact with the Earth’s magnetic field to provide us with splendid auroral displays. On a more sober note, very powerful flares can cause CMEs that can wreak havoc with orbiting satellites and even affect terrestrial technologies such as power grids and long-range radio communications.
Observe the AR2887 sunspot for yourself
Although the Sun is currently peaking at a relatively low elevation compared to summer, you can still easily track the progress of the AR2887 and potential new sunspots. One of the safest and easiest methods to observe the Sun in white light is the proven projection method.
A small telescope with an aperture of 60 to 100 mm (2.5 to 4 inches) (or a pair of binoculars) is used to project the image of the Sun onto a piece of white card held about eight inches behind the ocular. Never look directly at the Sun when you point your telescope; rather, watch for the tube’s tiniest shadow on the ground. Indeed, never look directly at the Sun at any time, as the ding can cause serious and even irreversible damage to your eyesight.
A full aperture white light solar filter, made of a metallized Mylar film or, preferably, coated glass, and supplied by a reputable astronomy dealer, will give great views. You can also go the H-alpha or Calcium route by purchasing a small dedicated telescope, like those made by Lunt and Coronado.