Today, scientists use cameras mounted on
powerful telescopes to take pictures of the sun's surface magnified hundreds
of times, revealing detail that scientists of Galileo's time would have
found wonderful. But scientists are still trying to find even better ways
to study the sun, equipping telescopes with various filters that capture
nonvisible parts of the sun's emission, such as x-rays and magnetic fields.
This section will look at how these new methods for examining the sun are
changing our understanding of sunspots. In addition, this section will explore
the sunspot cycle, and the known and possible effects sunspots have on earth.
The modern development of the telescope
has greatly extended what astronomers can see. According to David Dearborn,
who is a stellar physicist at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories when he's
not studying archeoastronomy in Peru,"The scientists in Galileo's time
had instruments with less resolution, less ability to see detail. They could
see clearly that there were dark regions on the sun, but they couldn't see
any of the fine structure. Telescopes today operate in different wavelengths,
so the fellows in Galileo's time had to just use the eye, and just use visible
light. Today, people are using instruments to measure the light more precisely
than the eye can, and measure it in colors beyond the visible, extending
and even x-rays
and gamma rays."
Viewing the nonvisible light that the sun emits not only gives scientists
new ways to examine the sun but new ways to contrast and compare results.
With these new tools, scientists have begun to unravel the mystery of sunspots.