The Sun is speckled with markings called sunspots that look darker than the rest of its surface. These spots show up where strong magnetic fields inside the Sun keep currents of hot gas from reaching the surface. Sunspots follow an 11-year cycle. The first spots appear near the poles; as years pass, more spots develop and move towards the equator.

Image credits: main image, courtesy of AURA/NOAO/NSF; Mordecai-Mark MacLow: AMNH.