Sunspots Changing in Real Time

It’s not fuzzy caterpillars or any small creatures interacting in a Petri dish.  The strange growing and twisting creatures are not creatures at all.  Today’s NASA APOD shows a time lapse view of a cluster of sunspots as they pass along the surface of the Sun during its rotation.  The total time is about 12 hours for the sunspots to cross the solar surface, yet the video is shortened to a quick minute and a half.

The amazing thing to notice is the amazing dance of the sunspots as they shift, twist, merge, separate, and interact with the granular convection cells of the Sun.  Created by magnetic fields extending beyond the surface of the Sun, they inhibit the heating of the surface, resulting in slightly cooler ‘spots’ that appear dark against the extremely bright solar surface.

Courtesy of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the time lapse tracks the particularly large sunspot group named AR 2339, during the current peak of the Sun’s eleven year sunspot cycle.

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