This topic submitted by D. Kostka, C. Neidenthal, S. De Stefano, A. Carroll, L. Hoffmann, E. McFadden ( at 2:49 pm on 11/16/00. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Cummins



Sun Spots are large transient patches on the photosphere of the sun which appear black in contrast with the surrounding regionsî (Nicholson 89). Sunspots are created by convection. Magnetic fields on the solar surface have a strong effect on the path of solar gases. Large fields of strength resist the motion of this matter. This makes it very hard to move the solar gases across the direction of the field in sunspots. It is then concluded that the magnetic fields of sunspots that extend far inside the sun, stop the motion of solar gases, and also stop the boiling of convection, thus "freezing" the solar gases in place. This reduces the heat that is brought to the surface at sunspots. This then, explains why sunspots are "cooler" and "darker" than the rest of the sun (Noyes 83-98).

The first sunspot recorded was spotted by Aristotleís pupil, Theophrastus, around 370-290 B.C. (Sonett 3). Scheiner and Galileo continued to research the peculiar ìblemishesî on the sun. Scheiner argued that the sunspots were bodies orbiting the sun and Galileo argued that sunspots represented properties of clouds that were carried with the rotation of the sun (Sonett 6). Four statements became accepted: ì1) the spots are on the sun; 2) a given spot moves across the surface of the Sun with a 29 day period; 3) there is an annual (seasonal) variation in the tilt of the path of the spots across the face of the sun; 4) there is no obvious diurnal variation in the spotsî (Sonett 9).

Sunspots contain 2 regions: a darker central region, the ìumbra,î and the lighter region, the ìpenumbraî, which surrounds the umbra. The penumbra consists of patterns of lighter and darker filaments. These patterns of filaments spread out in a radial pattern from the umbra (Nicolson 36). Sunspots can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as the earthís mass times seven. Sunspots mostly appear in pairs or groups. The leading spot of a pair, in terms of the direction of solar rotation, is referred to as the ìproceedingî or p-spot, while the other is known as the ìfollowingî or f-spot. All the sunspots in one of the bipolar groups have the same magnetic polarity. All of the other sunspots have the opposite polarity. The sunspot groups are divided on the basis of their magnetic properties into three principle classes, as follows: unipolar groups- single spots, or groups of spots having the same magnetic polarity; bipolar groups, in which the p- and f-spots are of opposite magnetic polarity; complex groups in which many spots of each magnetic polarity are jumbled together (Nicolson 37-39). A neutral line separates the opposing groups of polarity.

E. Walter Maunder documented a time, known as the Maunder Minimum, between 1645 and 1715 when sunspots virtually disappeared. In 1733, Jean Jackues DíOrtons de Mairan was ridiculed for relating the decrease in the auroras to the lack of sunspots during this time period. Now, the Maunder Minimum is believed to have caused a ìLittle Ice Agei here on earth, with temperatures dropping as low as 1.0 degrees Celsius in Northern Europe. It is now considered fact that the
periods of low solar activity closely relate to the cooling of the climate on earth. (Lang 250-251)


*We hypothesize that sunspots create solar disturbances. We predict that the size, frequency, shape, and personality of the sunspots directly correlate with the frequency and magnitude of solar disturbances. These solar disturbances include Northern Lights, radio communication disturbances, and atmospheric disturbances. Specifically, we predict the fewer sunspots, the less Auroras (Northern Lights) present. Also, the larger and more frequent sunspots appear, we think the slower the solar wind will travel due to the magnetic fields.

* Our interest in space provoked us to perform this project. We want to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the earth and sun.
* Through this lab we plan to accomplish:
a) A well-defined relationship between sunspots and solar disturbances.
b) To gain a better understanding of NASA's reasons for performing experiments and how it relates to us.
c) To learn how to use scientific equipment and generate a quality lab study that will be beneficiary for others and ourselves.
* The purpose of this lab is to prove our hypothesis true or false while simultaneously learning about the sun-earth relationship. We also hope to become aware of concepts and methods of the natural sciences.
* We plan to determine if sunspots affect the solar system and if it causes or influences solar disturbances.
* We find this topic is interesting because we experience the effects of solar disturbances everyday. We want to learn more about why and how occurrences in space or on the sun affect us on earth.


* Our research will relate to the larger questions- If sunspots create solar disturbances, what causes the sunspots? And, if sunspots create solar disturbances on earth, does the sun create similar disturbances on other planets or in other galaxies?
*We hope to contribute relevant data that will inform humans of the importance of the sun and its dramatic effects. We plan to make sense of the origin of sunspots and their effects on earth.

Materials and Methods:

*Our experimental design proposes that we will a) locate sunspots through the use of telescopes and sun screens, b) measure their size and frequency as they appear, and c) relate their magnitudes to that of solar disturbances on earth. It will be statistically sound for the period of time that the observations cover. NASA will aid in the accuracy of our results. We will be checking their website daily to see if our results correlate with theirs. It would not benefit our lab enough to base all of our observations off local weather and sunspots that we find. If we allow NASA to aid in our collection and analysis of data, our results will be much more generalized and accurate. We will be measuring the sunspots and counting their frequency to see if their changes coincide with that of solar disturbances and to see if there is any connection between the two. Because we do not have the machinery and equipment to gather more detailed information, we will rely on NASA to provide specifics that we could not generate.

*Our experiment is statistically sound. We know it is statistically sounds because we will be using telescopes and micrometers to measure the size and characteristics of each sunspot. We will also be using NASAís data, which is a reliable source. All of our results will be recorded as they are developed so as to ensure that nothing is forgotten or left out. We will ensure unbiased results by keeping a detailed log of what we observe and of NASAís observations as well. We will ensure that the data collected by the class can be trusted because we will witness their actions as they collect data during our class presentation. Since we will have already determined the correct procedures in observing the sun, we will be able to teach the class how to collect data correctly and without a bias. We will teach the class the importance of taking precise records and will demonstrate our own techniques with our journal and calculated histograms that our group has kept for each observation. The journal consists of a daily record of the observations made through the telescope and sunscreen. It will include the characteristics of the sunspots and their daily changes. We will include printouts from the NASA website and will then contrast our own observations with theirs.

*The materials that we use will play a vital role in proving our hypothesis true or false. In the year 1611, Johann Goldshchmid used a telescope to see sunspots, however, discontinued his research when he concluded that the spots proved that the sun rotates (Sonett, 4). We will be using telescopes provided by the Miami University Western College Science Program along with sunscreens. The telescope will allow us to observe the sun in a more precise way than possible with the naked eye. The sunscreens will allow us to look straight at the sun with our naked eye and determine if sunspots are present. We would not be able to look at the sun without this device because the rays would blind us. We will also be using the Internet frequently to compare our data with NASAís visuals and in-depth studies. Without the Internet our data would be very regional because we would not be able to determine worldwide solar disturbances correlation with sunspots.

*Our method of observation will be as follows:
Three times a week a pair of students will take the telescopes and sunscreens borrowed form the science lab and observe the sun. They will record size and frequency of the sunspots as they occur. The procedure to record the size of sunspots is as follows. We will take digital pictures of the sun, and then we will download these onto the computer. We will then print these images out. From these images, we will measure the sun as a whole and the individual sunspots. We will set up a ratio of the diameter of the print out sun with the actual diameter of the sun in ratio to the diameter of the printout sunpots to the unknown of the actual diameter of the sunspots. By this ratio, we will be able to determine the actual size of the sunspots we observe. Sunspot personality will be determined qualitatively,through description of the individual sunspots. They will compare the daily results of the sunspots with previous results and also with data provided by NASA. NASA observes the sun constantly, thus, we will be able to compare our results each day we take observations with the daily reports reported by NASA. On days that we do not or can not observe the sun, we will gather images of the sun at We will also gather data about the intensity of geomagnetic storms, radiation storms, and radio blackouts (all solar disturbances) at

Student involvement:

On the day of teaching, we will demonstrate how to observe the sun by using the telescope in the Science Center. After this, students will be assigned to a date on which they will complete an observation of the sunspot activity. These dates on which the students will observe the sun will be decided upon on the day of class. This is because we want to give everyone the chance to observe the sunspots, thus we must accomodate conflicting schedules. This is why we have no concrete student observation schedule at this time. We do know, however, that they will be observing with us. Therefore, the students will be observing on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The students will then complete the procedure by visiting NASA's website and recording their observations in the specified log. The students will be asked to compare their observations with NASA's site which is as follows:
Students can also visit to view the number of sunspots occurring on the sun per day and also the sun cycle in which we are currently observing.
To gather data about the intensity of various solar storms , they will visit

Some of the questions we will ask our fellow students to answer are as follows:
b. How big do you think an average sunspot is?
c. What do you think the biggest one is?
d. How big is the sun in comparison to the sunspot? (hint: use a ratio)
e. Where are the sunspots located on the sun?
f. What is a solar disturbance? Name some solar disturbances.

We will comment on changes in size or growth in numbers and how they intertwine with the solar disturbances. We will begin our observations on October 18th and will continue for five to seven consecutive weeks. We will be able to compare all of our observations over the experiment and develop conclusions.

We are currently approaching a sunspot maximum in January 2001

Here is the schedule of daily observations as follows:

Monday= No observations
Tuesday= Chelsea and Sarah
Wednesday= No observations
Thursday= Erin and Lauren
Friday= No observations
Saturday= No observations
Sunday= Amanda and Dan

On these days the pairs will be recording their observations in our journal. We will also closely monitor sun data from a variety of government sources including the amazing NOAA's on-line sun data resource page. This is an amazing resouce that will be tied into our own telescope observations.
--Their Anonymous FTP server for a wide variety of archived data and forecasts
--Space Weather Advisories
--And So Much More!

The schedule for our research project is as follows:

October 2: introduction to equipment.
October 17-November 28: collect data*
October 5, 7, 8, 13: library research; work on lab packet
October 18: finish lab packet
October 20: turn in lab packets
November 14: have class sign up for days to observe sun
November 16, 18, 26, 30: analyze data and finish lab report
December 1, 2, 3: revise and post final lab report
December 5: Turn in final lab report (hard copy)

*Our schedule for observing sun activity and comparing the
activity to the data on the NASA web site is as follows:

October 17, 24, 31, November 7, 14, 21: Chelsea and
Sarah observe sun activity and look on the NASA web site for solar
October 19, 26; November 2, 9, 16, 23: Lauren and Erin
observe sun activity and look on the NASA web site for solar disturbances.
October 22, 29; November 5, 12, 19, 28: Dan and Amanda
observe sun activity and look on the NASA web site for solar

We will involve the class in our experiment on the day that we are allowed to teach by actually having them observe the sun and then record it in the class journal. We teach them what the data they will be collecting means. We will help them measure the size of sunspots and then explain to them the correlation between the sunspots they observed and the solar disturbances, which are present at that time. We will have our own data sheets that we fill out after our observations and will keep them in the journal. We will give the students a data sheet, just like ours, to fill out and will compile their results. Together we will come to a conclusion about
the dayís observations.

Data Sheet:

Our data sheet will be set up as follows:

_______ date of observation (make a table like this for each day)

_______ number of sunspots total for the given date

sunspot size |
sunspot personality |
clumping (yes/no) |
sunspot location |
sunspot color |

We will create a table for each sunspot that we encounter, each day that we observe the sun.

Works Cited

Alurkar, S. K. Solar and Interplanetary Disturbances. River Edge, New
Jersey: World Scientific Publishing, 1996.

Lang, Kenneth R. Sun, Earth and Sky. Medford, Maine: Springer, 1995.

Nicholson, Iain. The Sun. New York: Rand McNally and Company, 1982.

Noyes, Robert W. The Sun, Our Star. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press, 1982.

Sonett, C.P., M.S. Giampapa, and M.S. Matthews, eds. The Sun In Time.
Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1991.

For Further Info on this Topic, Check out this WWW Site: . Next Article
Previous Article
Return to the Topic Menu

Here is a list of responses that have been posted to this Study...

IMPORTANT: Press the Browser Reload button to view the latest contribution.

Respond to this Submission!

IMPORTANT: For each Response, make sure the title of the response is different than previous titles shown above!

Response Title:

Professor's Name (Choose either Cummins, Myers, Campbell, or Smith):
Optional: For Further Info on this Topic, Check out this WWW Site:
Response Text:

Article complete. Click HERE to return to the Natural Systems Menu.

Visit the rest of the site!

 Weather & Earth Science Resources

|Weather & Environmental Sites | Radar & Severe Weather |Earth Science Resources | Astronomy| Global Change |

Tropical Ecosystem Courses

Images: Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys, Everglades, and San Salvador, Bahamas

Images: Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica

2000 Syllabus:Tropical Ecosystems of Costa Rica

2000 Syllabus :Tropical Marine Ecology of the Florida Keys, Everglades, & San Salvador, Bahamas

 Tools & Other Stuff

Necessities: Macintosh Resources | Search Engines | Library Resources | Server Stats |