We used a double-stacked Lunt 80 mm telescope to capture this photograph of the sun, in which you can even see the outline of the sun's magnetic field lines in the plasma near the sunspot on the surface!
The sun contains electric currents that generate a magnetic field, which has two poles, like a bar magnet. This magnetic field creates sunspot activity at the surface of the sun that surges and ebbs in a regular cycle.
Since the sun's surface is not a solid ball but is rather fluid-like, different parts of the sun rotate at different speeds. Thus, as the sun rotates, its magnetic field lines wind together, and, when the winding gets extreme, the magnetic field lines "snap" and create a sunspot.
Sunspots are magnetic in nature; they are active magnetic regions where the sun's magnetic field rises from below the sun's surface. A singular sunspot can have a lifetime of days or weeks. As shown in the photograph, sunspots appear darker than its surrounding areas; this is because they are expending less energy and thus have a lower temperature than the rest of the sun's surface.
While sunspots are formed continuously as the sun's magnetic field actively moves throughout the sun, there are different points within the sun's cycle that causes varying levels of sunspot activity. At the peak of this cycle, the polarity of the magnetic field flips, which causes maximum sunspot activity on the sun's surface. One cycle tracks over 11 years; and, since the last cycle ended in 2017, the sun's current cycle should end in 2028!
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