How many sunspots can the Sun have at once? (Beginner)

Hi i am doing a report for my 6 grade science class. I was wondering if you could answer the following questions?

Is there a limit to how many sunspots the sun could get?

How long does a sunspot stay on?

Sunspots come in pairs. One is like the North pole of a magnet and the other like the South pole. They are often also arranged in groups. Scientists count the number of subspots using a "sunspot number" which takes into account the resolution of your telescope and other factors which might impact the number of sunspots a given observer would count on the Sun. This is explained further at spaceweather.com which also gives a daily update of the sunspot number and pictures of the disk of the Sun. The largest sunspot number recorded seems to be about 200, which means (roughly) that you would have seen about 14 individual sunspots using a moderate sized telescope to project an image of the Sun. When I answered this question for the first time in October 2000 the sunspot number was 127 (October 7th 2000) according to www.sunspotcycle.com (website now appears to not be updated). As I said above the numbers vary on about an 11 year cycle, and in Oct 2000 we happened to be quite near the time when there are the largest numbers seen. Updating this answer on 31st Oct 2005, 5 years later, we are close to solar minimum and today's sunspot number is 14. Indeed I can see only a single pair of sunspots on todays picture of the Sun at www.spaceweather.com

Sunspots typically last for several days, although very large ones can last for several weeks.

About the Author

Karen Masters

Karen Masters

Karen was a graduate student at Cornell from 2000-2005. She went on to work as a researcher in galaxy redshift surveys at Harvard University, and is now on the Faculty at the University of Portsmouth back in her home country of the UK. Her research lately has focused on using the morphology of galaxies to give clues to their formation and evolution. She is the Project Scientist for the Galaxy Zoo project.

Twitter:  @KarenLMasters
Website:  http://icg.port.ac.uk/~mastersk/

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