For the past few years or so, solar observers (yes, with the right equipment, it can be done safely) have been out of luck in looking at sunspots, as our nearest star was buried deep in one of its cyclical minimum periods. However, come 2013, the Sun is starting to get revved up once again.
Right now, there is a gigantic sunspot, dubbed AR1654, on the Earth-facing side of the Sun. How big? Well, its about 110,000 miles across, which is bigger in diameter than the planet Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. For some number fun, Jupiter is about 88,000 miles in diameter. In contrast, the puny Earth is about 7,600 miles across.
Basically, it would take about 11 Earths to cross the face of Jupiter, which means that the sunspot, at about 110,000 miles across, would require about 14 Earths to span it. How big is this sunspot? So big that one doesn't even need a telescope to see it.
Even if you have just a pair of solar viewing glasses, it will be well worth grabbing them and going out to take a look. No solar glasses? If you have a #14 or darker welder's shield, you're in luck as this will block enough light in order to allow one to look at the Sun safely. Needlessly to say, a telescope equipped with a solar filter will really bring out all the fine details.
Now, since the Sun watching is a weather-allowing pursuit, be sure to keep an eye on the Cleveland weather forecast and, for hour-by-hour cloud predictions, the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock. Live somewhere else? Find a clock and see if it will be clear near you.
For more info:
How the Sun could send us back to the Dark Ages
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