The Sun has many different layers some of which dramatically impact the Earth both positively and negatively.
- The photosphere is the visible surface of the Sun that emits the light that we see. It is the lowest layer of the Sun’s atmosphere.
- The corona, the outer most layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, also emits light but is only visible as a white halo during a solar eclipse.
- Sunspots appear as dark spots on the photosphere. They are actually moving areas of magnetic activity with temperatures that are cooler than the area of the photosphere in which they are located. Astronomers study Sunspot cycles to learn how changes in solar activity affect life on Earth.
- Prominences are bright arch-like loops that may erupt from the photosphere into the corona. Often associated with Sunspot activity, they release large amounts of energy into outer space.
- Solar flares occur near Sunspots and are sudden, intense explosions that result in changes in brightness when magnetic energy is released. The charged particles released by solar flares are often detected in Earth’s atmosphere. The energy released from solar flares can cause damage to the International Space Station, disrupt radio and electrical transmissions on Earth, and cause displays of bright lights, auroras, that appear to “dance” in the skies near the North and South Poles.