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  what do sunspots look like?
  how are sunspots formed?
  how big are sunspots?
  who first spotted sunspots?
  how fast does the Sun spin?
  cycling sunspots
  solar activity cycle
  where do sunspots appear?
  can sunspots harm us?

can sunspots harm us?


No, not really. However, while we don't come to any direct harm from sunspots, the Sun's other activity can affect the Earth. The effects felt on Earth increase and decrease in step with the solar cycle, which is most easily observed by counting the number of sunspots.


A lot of energy from the Sun does reach us of course, which is a good thing as most life on Earth depends on it. Fortunately we are protected from the most harmful effects of the Sun's radiation and the solar wind by the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field, both of which act as shields to protect us.


The most violent events we can observe on the Sun are the huge explosions called solar flares.mouse over arrow These occur in the same regions of the Sun as sunspots, but even so, sunspots, solar flares and all the other activity on the Sun can't harm us directly.


What do sunspots have to do with Christmas cards?

Christmas CardAs an example of how the variation in the Sun's activity can affect us here on Earth, take a look at this Christmas card

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Between 1645 and 1715 (the period this card is portraying) there was a mini ice age on Earth. Interestingly enough, at the same time there were hardly any sunspots to be seen, so we can assume that all other solar activity was very low also.


This is an example of a possible direct link between the Sun’s activity and the Earth’s climate (low solar activity leading to lower temperatures on Earth). But the strange thing is that people have also found connections between the number of sunspots and the quality of wine, the success of fish breeding and even our moods! So who knows if the links are real or just coincidences?


One really nice and totally harmless effect of solar activity is the appearance of aurorae. While the coloured lights of aurorae are completely harmless, the particles that cause them (the solar wind) are not. To find out more, take a look at the Sun-Earth connection section.




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