I just looked at the sun with my eclipse glasses, and there are two black dots on the sun. What are those?

Olivia Thompson Olivia Thompson Apr 05, 2017 · 2 mins read
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On August 21, 2017, millions of people across the United States gathered together to witness the incredible phenomenon of a total solar eclipse. Whether they were in the direct path of totality or observing a partial eclipse from another location, people flocked to the outdoors to catch a glimpse of this rare celestial event. Of course, one key requirement for observing a solar eclipse safely is to wear special eclipse glasses or use other approved viewing methods.

But for some observers, even the protective glasses weren’t quite enough to prevent an eerie and unexpected sight during the eclipse. Some viewers reported seeing black dots or spots on the surface of the sun while looking through their glasses or telescopes.

So, what exactly are these black dots, and are they dangerous to observe? The answer lies in understanding how the sun’s surface appears during an eclipse.

During an eclipse, the moon passes in front of the sun, blocking out its light and creating a shadow on the Earth’s surface. However, the sun’s atmosphere is not completely hidden by the moon, allowing certain features to become visible. One of these features is known as a sunspot, which is an area of the sun’s surface that appears darker than the surrounding areas due to cooler temperatures.

Sunspots are caused by fluctuations in the sun’s magnetic field, which create areas of intense magnetic activity. These areas of strong magnetism can prevent the hotter gases within the sun from rising to the surface, creating a cooler, darker spot that stands out against the brighter surface.

During a solar eclipse, it’s possible to see these sunspots with the naked eye or through a solar filter. In fact, observing sunspots is a popular activity among amateur astronomers and other sun enthusiasts.

However, it’s important to note that observing the sun without proper protection can be extremely dangerous and can cause long-lasting damage to the eyes. Even with eclipse glasses or other viewing methods, it’s crucial to follow all safety guidelines and not to stare directly at the sun for an extended period of time.

In summary, the black dots or spots that were visible on the sun during the 2017 solar eclipse were likely sunspots, which are areas of the sun’s surface that appear darker due to cooler temperatures. While sunspots can be fascinating to observe, it’s always important to prioritize safety when viewing the sun and to use proper viewing methods to avoid any risk of eye damage or injury.

Olivia Thompson
Written by Olivia Thompson
Making a difference, one step at a time.