Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo

Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

(Image Credit: NASA)

A beach ball and a marble? Not quite, though the relative sizes may be similar. You see, the "beach ball" is the Sun, and the "marble" is Jupiter. What are the big splotches on the Sun? They are cells of a different nature — giant, Jupiter-sized convection cells in the Sun’s atmosphere.

It took almost 30 years of hunting to find them. Now, scientists think that they might play a major role in how the Sun rotates and how sunspots move across its face. They even may influence space weather.

"This is kind of like finding the high- and low-pressure systems that govern the weather on the Earth," said Dr. David Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. That giant convection cells have only now been discovered — after almost 400 years of observing the sun by telescope — is because their movements are buried in the more violent, small-scale activities on the Sun. Not until the last few years have modern computers and advanced telescopes made it possible to see the cells.