Galileo Sees Spots Before His Eyes

People must have seen sunspots before 1611, when Galileo (and, independently, other astronomers) first reported them. (As recently as March 2001, sunspots easily visible to the unaided eye have appeared.) The largest spots are visible to the naked eye (at least when the sun is seen through clouds). Yet, at the time, the world was reluctant to accept imperfections on the face of the sun. Sunspots were not (as far as we know) studied before Galileo.

Galileo drew a profound conclusion from the existence and behavior of sunspots. In 1613, he published three letters on sunspots, explaining that their movement across the face of the sun showed that the sun rotated.

Sunspots are irregularly shaped dark areas on the face of the sun. They appear dark because they are cooler than the surrounding material. They are tied to the presence of distorted magnetic fields at the sun's surface.

Star Words

Sunspots are irregularly shaped dark areas on the face of the sun. They appear dark because they are cooler than the surrounding material. They are tied to the presence of distorted magnetic fields at the sun's surface.

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