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Last Post 21 Mar 2018 09:22 AM by  Christina Cohen
sunspots
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david c
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21 Mar 2018 07:20 AM
    Hello, Have we ever been able to yet to observe the Sun's polar regions, and determine if sunspots occur there?
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    21 Mar 2018 09:22 AM
    Hi,

    It is very hard to observe the poles of the Sun from the ecliptic plane (where most of our spacecraft and Earth are). Sometimes we get a glimpse because the Earth's orbit is tilted relative to the equator of the Sun, but not by much, only about 7°.

    The Ulysses spacecraft was the only mission to fly over the poles (or nearly so) of the Sun. Unfortunately, it did not have any imaging instrumentation on it. We did learn a lot from that mission, but there are still questions remaining. In 2019, the European Space Agency will launch Solar Orbiter which will go out of the ecliptic plane (not as high as Ulysses) and does have imaging instruments, so that will be our first really good look at the solar poles.

    No one has ever observed a sunspot at the poles of the Sun and it is rare to see them above about 40° latitude. Generally the solar poles are regions of 'open' magnetic fields (basically long lines that go kind of straight out rather than making large loops) and it is probably impossible to make a sunspot in such an environment.

    -Christina
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