Here is a photo I took recently of a partial solar eclipse. This happened when the moon came between the Earth and the Sun. The photo also shows a massive sunspot (12192), which was about the size of the planet Jupiter. 12192 is still active and is about to rotate out of view as the Sun spins on its axis. A sunspot this large has not been seen since at least 2003. I took the photo by projecting the Sun’s image from my telescope onto a screen. Of course, this was taken during daylight so it should be obvious that I photo-shopped out the distractions in the image and replaced them with the black space you see surrounding the Sun.
Here are some Sun facts:
The Sun, now a “Yellow Dwarf,” formed about 4.567 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a region within a large molecular cloud. Most of the matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that would become our Solar System.
The Sun contains 99.86% of the mass in our Solar System and has 333,060 X the mass of the Earth. Its surface temperature is approx. 9,941°F. About 960,000 Earths could fit inside the Sun. The Earth is 93 million miles from the Sun and light from the Sun takes eight minutes to reach Earth. The Sun travels 137 miles per second through space. It is 24,000-26,000 light years from the galactic center and takes about 250 million years to complete an orbit around the center of the Milky Way. The Sun rotates on its axis much like the Earth, but unlike Earth and other solid objects, the entire Sun doesn’t rotate at the same rate. That’s because the Sun is a giant ball of gas and plasma. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation about every 24 1/2 Earth days, at its poles a full rotation takes about 36 days.
Eventually, the Sun will consume the Earth, but don’t worry, you won’t be around when that happens. When all the hydrogen has been burned, the Sun will continue for about 130 million more years, burning helium, during which time it will expand to the point that it will engulf Mercury and Venus and the Earth. At this stage it will have become a “Red Giant.”
Our current solar cycle, “Solar Cycle 24” began on January 4, 2008 and is the 24th solar cycle since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. It is on track to be the solar cycle with the lowest recorded sunspot activity since accurate records began in 1750.
“The solar cycle (or solar magnetic activity cycle) is the periodic change in the Sun‘s activity (including changes in the levels of solar radiation and ejection of solar material) and appearance (visible in changes in the number of sunspots, flares, and other visible manifestations). Solar cycles have an average duration of about 11 years. They have been observed (by changes in the sun’s appearance and by changes seen on Earth, such as auroras) for hundreds of years.