When the sun is in an active phase it produces more sunspots and flares – referred to as solar storms. In this photograph of the sun, the dark patches are sunspots. These are places where very intense magnetic lines of force break through the sun's surface. Their magnetic fields are thousands of times stronger than the earth's. During intense solar storms, the earth’s magnetosphere is buffeted by the solar wind (electrons and ions streaming from the sun), and auroras are more likely to form. Compass readings can become unreliable, and radio transmissions and other telecommunications systems can also be affected.
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