Images of Massive Sunspot Show Sun's Chaos
(Sept. 4) -- New images of a colossal sunspot show the chaos and energy on the surface of the sun.
The New Solar Telescope in Big Bear Lake, Calif., snapped the closest image ever taken of the sunspot, which is larger than the Earth. Resembling a giant sunflower, it makes for a pretty picture, but the black fibers are violent jets of energy being thrown from the surface of the star.
"What's interesting is that when we look at the sunspot, it appears pretty benign," New Jersey Institute of Technology professor Philip R. Goode told Fox News. But "the fibers are actually jets of energy being ejected from the bright magnetic fields at the surface."
Temperatures in the sunspot range from 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit to more than 10,000 degrees.
The sunspot itself is about 8,000 miles in diameter. The Earth is about 7,926 miles around the equator.
Sunspots are dark structures on the surface of the sun. They are created by intense magnetic activity, according to Space.com
These structures can erupt, sending storms hurtling out into space.
The storms can be felt on Earth, almost 93 million miles away, affecting power systems and satellites.
Last month, the sun sent out tons of plasma matter into space, an event that some dubbed a "solar tsunami." The tsunami created an incredible light display on Earth, with a green curtain of light being seen in skies above Michigan, according to The Daily Mail.
NASA is also working on a new way to study the sun. The agency plans to launch an unmanned craft into the sun's outer atmosphere, BBC News reported.
The craft will be about the size of a car and will send back readings from the sun's outer atmosphere before it is destroyed by temperatures topping 2,550 degrees.
"For the very first time, we'll be able to touch, taste and smell our sun," Nasa scientist Lika Guhathakurta told BBC News.