In a new video, an enormous cluster of sunspots rotates across the sun's face before gradually separating into several distinct groups, which also fired off a bunch of solar flares.
The massive grouping took less than a week, from Aug. 21 to Aug. 26, 2015, to travel across the face of the sun. It formed the only significant spots on the sun during that time, and they were imaged by NASA's orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. [Watch the NASA video of the sunspot group's break-up]
Sunspots are the darker, cooler regions of the sun in the photosphere, the sun's surface layer. Although they appear dark when compared to the brighter, hotter regions around them, they average around 6,400 degrees Fahrenheit (3,500 degrees Celsius). They form via interactions with the sun's magnetic field.
The intriguing region in the video produced several medium-size, or M-class, flares, ejecting material from the sun into space. The largest of these was rated as an M-5.6-class flare. The number provides information about the solar flare's strength; higher numbers mean stronger flares. The strongest flare from the cluster erupted on Aug. 24, peaking at 3:33 a.m. EDT (0733 GMT).
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Nola Taylor Tillman is a contributing writer for Space.com. She loves all things space and astronomy-related, and enjoys the opportunity to learn more. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Astrophysics from Agnes Scott college and served as an intern at Sky & Telescope magazine. In her free time, she homeschools her four children. Follow her on Twitter at @NolaTRedd