The Enigma Of Sunspots
A Story Of Discovery And Scientific Revolution
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Sunspots are dark areas of irregular shape on the Sun's surface, some as large as 50,000 miles (80,000 km) in diameter. They move across the surface, contracting and expanding as they go, and are often big enough to be seen with the naked eye. Given their elusive cyclical nature, and the fact that it is both painful and dangerous to observe the Sun directly, it is little wonder that records of sunspots are almost non-existent in Europe before the seventeenth century. Mentions of sunspots were ignored by early astronomers and philosophers, who followed Aristotle in believing that the heavens were perfect. Judit Brody charts the fascinating history of our efforts to understand sunspots, and the lives and quarrels of those dedicated astronomers who first charted their mysterious patterns and whose records are still of vital importance. Today solar emissions are thought to coincide with major effects in global weather patterns, and a deeper scientific understanding of the Sun's nature and behaviour, using modern telescopes and other instruments, has never been more important.
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