Celestial wonder: You’ve time till Feb 7 to spot the sunspot

Thursday, 6 February 2014 - 6:45am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
  • The dark spot on the surface of the sun is big enough to accommodate a dozen earths

Astronomer and stargazers across the world have been thrilled to see a huge dark spot dotting the sun these days. The sunspot can be seen with naked eye during sunrise and sunset. This solar phenomena will last only till Friday. But don’t look at it without protection, advise scientists.

The dark area, catalogued as spot-AR1967, was first captured by telescopes on January 1. After a six-day show, it slowly went to backside of the sun due to latter’s rotation.

“It appeared on Sunday once again and can be seen through naked eyes till Friday,” says Arvind Parajpye, director of Nehru Planetarium, Worli. He, however, cautioned that one should not look at the sun without  protective gears such as solar goggles used for observing solar eclipses.

A sunspot appears dark as its temperature differs from the surroundings. Temperature of a sunspot is about 4,500 degree Celsius which is approximately 2,000 degrees less than surrounding.

AR-1967 is believed to be spread over 2,00,000 kilometers. That means it is big enough to fit in a dozen earths in itself. Sunspots are a result of complex interactions between the star’s magnetic field and rotation.

Deepak Joshee, a Pune based amateur astronomer who observes the sun’s activity thrice a day since years, says, “Normally a sunspot’s life is from about a few hours to a few days. Larger ones can live for more than a month and this is one of those. Actually this spot is the same as seen earlier in the first week of January 2014. It was called AR-1944 then.”

Joshi is associated with the India’s oldest astronomers’ organization “Jyotirvidya Parisanstha” and has managed to take this photograph.

Paranjpye adds, “The appearance of sunspots is cyclic. The number of sunspots goes through a cycle of 11 years. Every five years and six months, we have a very large solar activity that decays over next five-and-half years and then increases again.” Presently, we are close to the end of its current activity cycle.

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