Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2008 February 6
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A Sunspot in the New Solar Cycle
Credit & Copyright: Greg Piepol

Explanation: A new cycle has begun on our Sun. Over the past year, the Sun's magnetic field has reset and now a new 11 year period is beginning. Pictured above in a specific colour of light emitted by hydrogen is sunspot 10982, one of the first sunspots of the new solar cycle. The two dark lines visible just above and to either side of the bright sunspot are cool filaments held aloft by the Sun's magnetic field. Hot and cold regions are shown as regions of relative light and dark, respectively. A solar cycle is caused by the changing magnetic field, and varies from solar maximum, when sunspot, coronal mass ejection, and flare phenomena are most frequent, to solar minimum, when such activity is relatively infrequent. Solar minimums occurred in 1996 and 2007, while the last solar maximum occurred in 2001. Of course, tomorrow's annular solar eclipse is mostly for penguins.

Tomorrow's picture: pixels in space

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