Though the sun lies 93 million miles (149 million km) from Earth, its unceasing activity assures an impact on our planet far beyond the obvious light and heat. From a constant stream of particles in the form of solar wind to the unpredictable bombardment from solar flares and coronal mass ejections, Earth often feels the effects of its stellar companions. Less noticeable are the sunspots crossing the solar surface, though they are related to the more violent interactions. All of these fall under the definition of “space weather.”
Watch a very large solar flare:
Studying the surface of the sun can reveal small, dark areas that vary in number and location. These sunspots, which tend to cluster in bands above and below the equator, result from the interaction of the sun’s surface plasma with its magnetic field.