SPACE: Watch huge, shape-shifting sunspots

Posted at 5:35 AM, Jun 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-15 05:35:41-04

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA Goddard) - A shape-shifting active region; AR1504 rotated over the eastern limb of the Sun on June 9 and started its journey across the Earth facing side of the Sun with a M-class solar flare. Between June 9 and 14 a total of 5 M-class flares were observed, of which the long-duration June 13 flare hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) our way. 

This video shows the shape-shifting path the sunspots of this active region have taken. The electric currents in the Sun, as well as in planets and galaxies, generate magnetic fields. Sunspots, temporary disturbances in the Sun's photosphere, are the most visible advertisement of the solar magnetic field. They appear dark because temperatures are considerably lower than in surrounding areas. Sunspots occur where the magnetic field lines emerge from the inside of the Sun to form expanding loops above its surface.
Sunspots usually show up as small forms that are irregularly shaped, and grow within days or weeks to their full size. While they can last weeks or months, they do eventually disappear, often by breaking into smaller and smaller sunspots.

The video also takes a look at the five M-class solar flares from the June 6 to 14, 2012. 

Credit: NASA SDO