Fortunately the days are getting longer, but the temperatures are still quite frigid! One thing to note is, the Sun is actually closest to Earth in January. As the Earth goes around the Sun it is close to a circular orbit but the perihelion, when we are closest to the Sun, is about 3 million miles closer than in July when we are furthest from the Sun (aphelion).
For those wanting to see more of the Sun, safely, there are specially engineered ‘Solar Telescopes’ to block an enormous amount of energy to make it safe. Please, do not use anything but a professionally-made solar viewing telescope. The Sun is comprised of many layers, with two of them easily to separate and view; the Photosphere and the Chromosphere.
The picture below is showing only the Hydrogen details of the Chromosphere and material trying to escape. The red arches at the edge of the Sun are solar material trapped in magnetic field lines, commonly called prominences, or filaments when viewed on the surface of the Sun. Ever-changing, watching prominences shape-shift is fun! The Apache-Sitgreaves Observatory has both filtered telescopes to view the Photosphere and Chromosphere.
Familiar to most people are Sunspots. These are cooler areas and so appear darker in the Photosphere, and if there are going to be any solar flares they will originate at a sunspot. In a future article we’ll discuss flares, the solar wind, and how Earth is in the Sun’s shooting gallery with the Sun having Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s) hurling billions of tons of plasma out into space, possibly towards us, and what effects we would witness.
Enjoy the warmth of the sun and view it safely!
Steven Aggas is the Director at Apache-Sitgreaves Observatory, located in Overgaard, AZ, using the largest public viewing telescope in Arizona. Visit Apache-Sitgreaves.org for information on events and tickets.