Never before have two such large sunspots been seen on the face of the Sun at the same time. Number 486 lies to the left and number 484 towards the right. Click the picture or here to se how they develop.
Despite being slightly cooler than the surrounding areas, these are regions of intense violence that blast off high energy plasma and magnetic fields that interfere with the Earth causing radio and electricity blackouts as well as beautiful Northern and Southern Lights.
Click here for a Hydrogen-Alpha view of the same scene, which not only shows spots but also the flame-like prominences of gas thrown clear of the Sun by explosions on the surface.
These spots are easily visible to the naked eye, with suitable eye protection of course. See here for what is and is not safe, and an explanation of how the different types of filter I use allow the Sun to be observed safely.
The scale and power of these sunspots is enormous. See these white light close-ups for a size comparison with the Earth (486, 484) and the H-Alpha ones for a better view of the twisted magnetic field lines around the spots (486, 484).
Picture added on 27 October 2003