What Causes Sunspots?

Sunspots look like dark, cool splotches on the bright surface of the sun.

But these spots only look cool because they’re cooler than the areas around them. The surface of the sun is about 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the gases over a sunspot may be “only” 7,200 degrees.

Sunspots are caused by the magnetic fields of the sun. The magnetic fields give gas particles on the sun’s surface a great deal of extra energy, enough to send them shooting away from the surface. As clouds of these gas particles rise, they cool slightly and appear as dark spots against the bright background of the sun’s surface.

Sunspots are always found in pairs. Some sunspots have a plus charge, like the North Pole of a magnet, and others have a minus, or negative charge, like the South Pole of a magnet.

Scientists believe that a positively charged sunspot marks the point where magnetic lines of force leave the sun, while a negatively charged spot marks the point where those lines of force return to the sun.

A single sunspot may be more than 185,000 miles long!