The Sun is a star, made of trillions upon trillions of tons of ionized gas, called plasma. That's a little hard to make at home, so our version trades in helium and hydrogen for butter and sugar!
For these cookies, we're using chocolate chips for sunspots, but what are the real ones made of? Sunspots are areas on the Sun where the solar magnetic field is particularly twisted up — this actually cools down the gas in these regions, making them appear dark to our eyes. Sunspots help scientists study the Sun's activity, too!
The Sun goes through cycles of activity that last about 11 years. During periods of high activity, it often releases bursts of fast-moving particles, gigantic flashes of light, and billion-ton clouds of solar material that go speeding off into space! These events are less common during periods of low activity.
All of these events are connected to the state of the Sun's magnetic field: when it's more tangled and twisted, there are more of these events — and that also means more sunspots. That means the Sun sometimes have lots of spots, and sometimes it has very few, or even none at all, and it's all related to how active the Sun is.
To make sunspot cookies, you'll need a sugar cookie recipe of your choice! One recipe, along with instructions for solar decoration, is available here: https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/sunspot-cookies/en/
For the cookie and icing recipe in this video, you'll need:
• ¼ cup butter
• ¼ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 ¼ cup flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
• 3-8 teaspoons milk
• Chocolate chips or black gel icing to create sunspots
If you want to try and see sunspots yourself, remember that the Sun is too bright to look at directly! You need special solar viewing glasses or a specially-designed solar telescope (NOT a regular telescope!) to safely look at the Sun without damaging your eyes. More about solar viewing glasses
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 18.104.22.168.0