Vivid images of a sunspot formation in action reveals new clues that may help scientists better understand how and why this unusual phenomenon occurs on the Sun’s surface.
Sun spots have long been a mystery to solar experts until exceptionally detailed images of a sunspot formation at the 224th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) were presented yesterday by researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
Researchers had theorized that these dark blemishes on the Sun’s surface occur when clashing magnetic fields form dense regions that prevent heat from rising to the Sun’s interior per Nature World News. The spots range from small moon-sized structures to larger ones the size of Jupiter. They tend to be made up of a dark, “cool” center called the umbra – where the magnetic suppression of solar activity is the strongest – and the outer penumbra – where it is both warmer and lighter.
The unusual phenomenon has been studied by ancient Chinese men of science and even the infamous Galileo, according to NASA. But even in present time, experts are still uncertain how they form and how they keep their incredibly stable magnetic structure for so long.
At the meeting of the American Astronomical Society, images compiled from the Solar Telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) in California and NASA’s IRIS – an unmanned orbital telescope – revealed the complex workings of internal magnetic fields that keep sunspots so stable.
Researchers explain that the detailed sunspot images depict subtle activity in the area where the umbra and penumbrae of a spot meet, looking like a “rolling motion” of plasma contained by magnetism. These images are the first to provide a detailed view of such a mechanism, and suggest that rapidly rotating convective rolls in the penumbra are connected to similarly rotating relatively bright “umbral dots” found deeper in the darker spot.
While these new observations do not fully explain how any of this activity happens it does tell experts that the spots are much more complex than previously thought and not as static as earlier images implied.
The researcher’s presentation can be viewed in greater detail by clicking here.