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Surface Features of the Sun

Describes the surface features of the Sun, including sunspots, solar prominences, solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

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Solar Attack

Solar Attack

Credit: Laura Guerin
Source: CK-12 Foundation
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Like Earth, the Sun has a magnetic field that flips poles. The time between flips is a solar cycle. During the flips, things can go crazy, even here on Earth.

News You Can Use

Summer 2013 appears to have been the peak of Solar Cycle 24. A solar cycle runs between 9 and 14 years, averaging around 11 years. At the peak of the solar cycle, the Sun has the most sunspots. Solar flares vary from several per day during the active period to less than one per week during the quiet period. Earth’s magnetic field protects us from nearly all of the solar storms that happen during the cycle. Occasionally one causes some damage. Earth seems to have dodged a bullet since scientists thought the Solar Cycle 24 peak might be extremely active.

Can You Apply It?

With the links below, learn more about solar flares. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why does the Sun have such a turbulent atmosphere?
  2. What happens during a magnetic reversal on the Sun?
  3. A giant solar flare struck Earth in 1859, but it didn’t seem to cause much damage. Why do people worry about one that large hitting now?
  4. What can we do to protect ourselves from this possibility?

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  1. [1]^ Credit: Laura Guerin; Source: CK-12 Foundation; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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