If you still have your solar viewing glasses from the eclipse, now is a good time to look up at the sun. You’ll see two big dark areas - these massive sunspots are regions of intense and complicated magnetic fields that can produce solar flares.
These two huge sunspots are currently causing quite a bit of interest. The solar storms they’ve sent toward Earth may affect communications and other technologies like GPS and radio signals. They’re causing amazing displays of the Northern and Southern Lights. The sun goes through 11-year cycles of solar activity. What scientists call a solar maximum is the time in the cycle when the sun is putting out the most energy. The number of sunspots varies over the years, but you’d expect to see more during solar maxima and fewer during solar minima.
Credit for top image: Both sunspots are visible on the sun’s surface, as well as the flare in the solar atmosphere. NASA/GSFC/SDO, CC BY