Apr 192011
 
Sunspot Group AR1176

Sunspots are planet-sized pieces of the solar surface that are cooler than the surrounding areas.  Therefore, they don’t glow as brightly and they look dark.  You’ll never see one with your naked eye (if you do, we’re all in trouble), but you can see one with the proper precautions, and a Time Machine.

Remember, the sun is 8 minutes and 14 seconds away, it rotates, it wobbles, and it gets closer and farther away as the Earth rotates around it.  Luckily, we have an atmosphere, because sunspots correspond to coronal mass ejections, or CMEs (solar flares, basically) that push a lot of radiation at us.  Without an atmosphere, we’d all look like George Hamilton.  Anyway, I digress.

Sunspots usually come in groups.  Groups get named.  Names are better than saying “that group of sunspots over there.”  So Astropotamus was lucky in that the sunspots he imaged on 03-Apr-2011 were part of a larger, Jupiter sized group of sunpots grouped together into AR1176.  You can Google it for details, but ‘Potamus is quite pleased at being lucky enough to catch this group on a particularly good day of sunspot seeing.

Sunspot Group AR1176

Sunspot Group AR1176

AR1176 is near the top of the center of the sun.  Anything that looks like sunspots below halfway down the sun is actually dust.  There are two other groups towards the eastern edge of the Sun (which is actually the western edge, since it’s flipped visually).