Many of my stargazing friends spend a lot of time look at our day time star. No wonder, as it yields a number of interesting sights. Thanks to a tip from my friend Bill, who helped me build the observatory, he told me that after a two-year low in the number of sun spots to see, there are now some to view. Jumping on the chance to try out my solar filter, I manually guided and focused my brain-dead telescope and found my first sun spots ever.
As the picture at right shows, those little dark spots, which have to be many times larger than the size of the Earth, showed up in Bertha. It was a bit of a challenge to get it to focus reasonably well, and I can't see the actual bubbling of the Sun's surface, but the spots are definitely there, as you can see.
On a much larger scale, I checked on the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), to see an image of the sun spots from space. SOHO was launched on December 2, 1995. The SOHO spacecraft was built in Europe by an industry team led by prime contractor Matra Marconi Space (now EADS Astrium) under overall management by ESA. The twelve instruments on board SOHO were provided by European and American scientists. Nine of the international instrument consortia are led by European Principal Investigators (PI's), three by PI's from the US. Large engineering teams and more than 200 co-investigators from many institutions supported the PI's in the development of the instruments and in the preparation of their operations and data analysis. NASA was responsible for the launch and is now responsible for mission operations. Large radio dishes around the world which form NASA's Deep Space Network are used for data downlink and commanding. Mission control is based at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.