Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sun Trivias

We have described the layers in the sun’s outer atmosphere, but have ignored some of their more interesting aspects, the storms in the atmosphere. The sun’s atmosphere is regularly disturbed by solar weather in the form of sunspots, prominences, and solar flares. With the proper equipment—or an Internet connection (http://sohowww.estec.—you can observe some of the signs of activity on the sun’s surface.
A Granulated Surface
If we look at the sun, its surface usually appears featureless, except, perhaps, for sunspots, which we’ll discuss in a moment. However, viewed at high-resolution, the surface of the sun actually appears highly granulated. Now, granule is a relative concept when we are talking about a body the size of the sun. Each granule is about the size of an earthly continent, appearing and disappearing as a hot gas bubble rises to the surface of the sun.
Galileo Sees Spots Before His Eyes
People must have seen sunspots before 1611, when Galileo (and, independently, other astronomers) first reported them. (As recently as March 2001, sunspots easily visible to the unaided eye have appeared.) The largest spots are visible to the naked eye (at least when the sun is seen through clouds). Yet, at the time, the world was reluctant to accept imperfections on the face of the sun.
Sunspots were not (as far as we know) studied before Galileo. Galileo drew a profound conclusion from the existence and behavior of sunspots. In 1613, he published three letters on sunspots, explaining that their movement across the face of the sun showed that the sun rotated.

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