Astrophotography by Anthony Ayiomamitis

Solar Image Gallery - Sunspots

Perhaps the most obvious feature of the sun is the sunspots that characterize the photosphere. The base temperature of the 300-km deep photosphere is approximately 6400 C whereas the sunspot regions are characterized with areas of relatively lower temperature (around 4800 C for the umbral regions and 5900 C for the penumbral regions) and increased magnetic activity (up to 3000 times the average magnetic field of the sun). Due to the differential rate of rotation of the solar disk (26 days at the equator and 36 days at the poles), there is a "twisting" of the magnetic fields which surface to the photosphere producing sunspots. Typically, these spots and groups are found to lie + 30 of the solar equator and can physically be many-fold times larger than our planet! As the images below indicate, sunspots are characterized with a dark core, the "umbra", where the temperature is about 1600 C less than the surrounding temperature of the photosphere whereas the less darker envelope which typically encompasses the umbral region, the "penumbra", is about only 500 C less than the surrounding photospheric temperature.

Studies have shown sunsplot activity to exhibit an eleven-yr cycle with virtually little sunspot activity during the minima of the cycle whereas frequent sunspots and associated groups dominate during the maximum of the same cycle, typically approximately 4.5 years after the minimum. During the solar maximum, we also have frequent filaments, flares and prominences (see here) which include ejected material from the sun's outermost "shell", the chromosphere, that reaches earth causing, for example, geomagnetic storms that produce the well-known and beautiful aurora borealis and australis.

Note: The sunspot groups AR10486 (Zurich class: Fkc, 18 S, 18 W) and AR10488 (Zurich class: Fkc, 08 N, 28 W) are each approximately the size of Jupiter and are the source of X-class coronal mass ejections with AR10486 being directly responsible for auroral activity. Of lesser importance are sunspots AR10487 (Zurich class: Dko, 12 N, 06 E) and AR10492 (Zurich class: Eko, 23 S, 62 W) in the vicinity of AR10486 which represent the only other major sources of activity. Further details for these active regions are available here. Similarly, for a full-disk image of today's sun by the author, please click here.

Note: There are some small "smudges" in the image below. This is due to some very thin clouds.

Image Details
Sunspot Groups AR10486-492
Imaging Details

332,900 x Earth

Mean Eq Diameter:
109.1 x Earth

152 million km

RA / Dec:
14h 20m 54s /
-14 02' 32"



Light Time:
0h 8m 21.6s
Oct 31, 2003
13:28:07 UT+2

Athens, Greece

TeleVue Pronto
TeleVue 3x Barlow
Celestron CG-3 GEM
ScopeTronix STWA14 Adapter
Nikon Coolpix 995
Baader ND-5 (full-aperture)

1 x 1/300 sec @ f4.2
ISO Auto
JPG RGB Fine image format
2048x1536 image size
Autodark subtraction

Photoshop V6

Unsharp Masking
Resampling (30%)
JPG Compression