and the Solar Max

SunAs early as the fifth century B.C., the Chinese reported having observed dark spots on the sun. But it wasn't until 1610 that Galileo Galilei of Italy, Johannes Fabricius of Holland, Christopher Scheiner of Germany, and Thomas Harriott of England each independently made the first observations of sunspots (there is some debate over who really was the first to make the observations). All four men observed the solar blemishes through telescopes and made sketches of the sunspots changing shapes and locations. Daily observations were started at the Zurich Observatory in 1749 and, with the addition of other observatories, continuous observations were obtained starting in 1849.

Sunspot Drawings


by Steve Graham
February 22, 2000


top left: Sunrise (Photograph copyright PhotoEssentials)

left: Some of Galileo's sketches of sunspots from the 17th century. (Large versions are available from the Galileo Project, Rice University)

next: What exactly is a sunspot?