Wow, has the sun ever been getting busy over the last little while.
As of today (Feb. 8), there were three active regions occurring at once including two across the northern half of the visible hemisphere - including one massive sunspot group - and even a southern hemisphere spot.
Can there be any doubt that we're out of that long, drawn out "solar minimum?" I didn't think so!
Do I sound a bit giddy? Perhaps but that's only because an active sun is an amazing sun in so many wavelengths. The full spectrum view certainly has plenty to offer. Giant blotches of black that mark the relatively cooler regions where twisting magnetic fields break free from the bubbling solar interior, specklings of white magnetic "froth" known as faculae.
However, "narrow band" views such as those offered specific ionized gases such as hydrogen, calcium and sodium also offer a variety of amazing views.
Sadly, without a lot of money, there are very few opportunities to see the sun in some of these wavelengths. While a Hydrogen-Alpha "solar scope" is purchased for a relatively low $700, some of the other specialty solar scopes are considerably more expensive.
Easier methods of viewing are through a couple of websites I like to check on a regular basis. Until recently, there wasn't much to see. Now, however, they offer tons to look at. The sites I follow most are:
the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
Big Bear Solar Observatory
Of course, if one were inclined to view the sun and didn't own the appropriate equipment, this would be the best way I'd recommend they go have a gander at our nearest star. It's a lot safer than sunglasses or exposed film. Both of those methods will lead to blindness!