November 3rd, 2011
04:01 PM ET

SDO shows us the Sun's spots

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is on a mission to study our sun and how its activity might affect Earth. We've heard about solar flares and the way solar activity can disrupt life on Earth, but have you ever just looked at a sunspot?

The sunspot visible in the upper left of the image above is called AR1339, and it's one of the largest sunspots recorded in years. So large, in fact, that it's visible through backyard solar telescopes. Spaceweather.com reports that the sunspot measures roughly 40,000 km wide and twice that length, noting that some of the sunspot's darker cores are wider than our planet.

If you don't have a telescope handy and still want to take a look at our stunning sun, check out SDO's website. It makes its data available to the public through a searchable database.

SDO also has a Twitter account and a mascot, @Camilla_SDO, who travels across the country, doing education and outreach.

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Filed under: In Space • Light up the screen
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Lynwood Honkanen

    Electrical voltage is something we take for granted – at least until we travel abroad. Voltage converters and voltage transformers allow you to operate your electric devices safely in foreign countries where the electrical outlet standards are different than your own home country. They have the same purpose – converting electricity from one voltage to another – but their function is slightly different. Some of your electrical devices don't care which one you choose. Others, such as your cell phone, laptop or iPad, will be very unhappy if you try to plug them into the wrong one. ,

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    February 25, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  2. SirDaBasher

    Oops I meant maybe the sun is showing signs of cancer.

    November 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  3. SirDaBasher

    May the sun is showing signs of cancer

    November 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  4. ajd041

    wow a sun spot whoopee! Since you refuse to educate people on this I will. Sun spots are cooler places on the sun's surface. The more sunspots there are the more likely it is for solar flares and coronal mass ejections to happen. It also increases the magnitude of these things. Solar flares are ejections of supercharged particles that when they reach the earth, they stretch or protective magnetosphere and cause auroras to be visible. Coronal mass ejections, as the name suggests, are huge eruptions of supercharged particles out into space much more massive than a solar flare. Both of these things, when they hit earth have the potential to disrupt communications, destroy satellites, expose high flying commercial aircraft to radiation and even disrupt electrical systems. A strong enough CME can affect the high to low voltage transformers that all of our electrical power comes from. In a worst case scenario the CME can overload the transformers and destroy them causing widespread blackouts. Since these transformers are custom made it would take a very long time to replace them and restore electricity.

    November 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • LDL

      Wow. You sound so smart.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:39 am |
      • SirDaBasher

        @LDL

        Have you ever heard of copy and paste
        We're all smart these days

        November 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  5. Timeonmyside

    Hey CNN, great reporting here. Actually, that's sarcasm. This is REAL news, yet you give it 2 1/2 paragraphs. EDUCATE THE PEOPLE, INFORM THEM, stop this fluffy side-story bull. PERFORM YOUR CIVIC DUTY.

    November 4, 2011 at 10:57 am |

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