An unusual helix-shaped coronal mass ejection was observed by a NASA spacecraft in June 1998. The main body of the sun—outlined in white—is blocked by a coronagraph.
Coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are mammoth clouds of charged particles that get hurled through the sun’s atmosphere at millions of miles an hour. A CME contains billions of tons of charged particles and can expand until it’s larger than the sun itself.
“The Hinode telescope captures some amazing views of last week’s annular solar eclipse.
Last week’s annular solar eclipse was only visible from cruises in the Pacific Ocean, but the international fleet of solar-observing spacecraft had a great view. The Hinode telescope, which orbits Earth and observes the sun in X-ray, optical, and extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, captured several eerie views of the event on Friday.
It wasn’t an annular eclipse from orbit, however: The moon just skims the sun from Hinode’s perspective. The telescope passed through the eclipse path four times, because Hinode loops Earth about every hour and a half. But it only captured three of the four eclipses, because in one of the orbits, both the Earth and moon were blocking the sun, according to Patrick McCauley, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
That is also why this view is truncated halfway through:
See an awesome time-lapse video of a lunar eclipse here.”
Explanation: This week the shadow of the New Moon fell on planet Earth, crossing Queensland’s Cape York in northern Australia … for the second time in six months. On the morning of May 10, the Moon’s apparent size was too small to completely cover the Sun though, revealing a “ring of fire” along the central path of the annular solar eclipse. Near mid-eclipse from Coen, Australia, a webcast team captured this telescopic snapshot of the annular phase. Taken with a hydrogen-alpha filter, the dramatic image finds the Moon’s silhouette just within the solar disk, and the limb of the active Sun spiked with solar prominences. Still, after hosting back-to-back solar eclipses, northern Australia will miss the next and final solar eclipse of 2013. This November, a rare hybrid eclipse will track across the North Atlantic and equatorial Africa.
Nasa Apod 11 May 2013
The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 1:32 pm EDT on May 3, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation.
Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing, and the radio blackout for this flare has already subsided.
This flare is classified as an M5.7-class flare. M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause some space weather effects near Earth.
Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, as the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013.
SOLAR SPIT An image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a blast of plasma streaming from the Sun in August 2012. Scientists say a solar eruption was detected on Tuesday and was headed toward Mars. When reached for comment, Mars said “Tell the Sun to come at me, bro.” (Photo: NASA via the AP / Wall Street Journal)
Solar Cycle Update: Twin Peaks?
Something unexpected is happening on the sun. 2013 is supposed to be the year of Solar Max, the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Yet 2013 has arrived and solar activity is relatively low. Sunspot numbers are well below their values in 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent for many months.
The quiet has led some observers to wonder if forecasters missed the mark. Solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center has a different explanation:
“This is solar maximum,” he suggests. “But it looks different from what we expected because it is double peaked.”
We saw how Planck’s law allows you to calculate how much of each wavelength of light (or electromagnetic radiation) something emits due to its temperature. By the way, this is how people first figured out how hot the sun is. (It’s about 5505 °C, 5778 K, or 9941 °F.)
Look how the peak of the curve, the most light from the sun, falls between what we would call blue (or violet) and red. It’s such a great coincidence that we can see (with our eyes) light in that range, and that’s what the sun happens to emit the most of! Or, if you look at it a different way, we evolved well-adapted to our environment, with eyes that detect the most useful kind of light: the light from the sun.
Alan Friedman’s Astonishing HD Photographs of the Sun Shot from his Own Backyard
“Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.
On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun’s lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays — a phenomenon known as coronal rain.
Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.
The footage in this video was collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA instrument. SDO collected one frame every 12 seconds, and the movie plays at 30 frames per second, so each second in this video corresponds to 6 minutes of real time. The video covers 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT on July 19, 2012.
Music: “Thunderbolt” by Lars Leonhard, courtesy of artist.”
Learn more about this event here.
[Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO]
“This is an image of magnetic loops on the sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). It has been processed to highlight the edges of each loop to make the structure more clear.
A series of loops such as this is known as a flux rope, and these lie at the heart of eruptions on the sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs.) This is the first time scientists were able to discern the timing of a flux rope’s formation. (Blended 131 Angstrom and 171 Angstrom images of July 19, 2012 flare and CME.)”
Early on Jan. 31, 2013, SDO observed a visual phenomena that most of us do not recall ever seeing before: a ring-shaped prominence that lay flat above the Sun’s surface.
Plasma streaming along the magnetic field lines appears to go in both directions at the same time along the field lines. Before long, the prominence became unstable and erupted in a large swirl with most of the materials falling back into the Sun. You never know what you are going to see next.
Prominences by Ralph Smith
Original video captured by the joint ESA/NASA mission at the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), 7pm EST Jan 22 — 5:30pm Jan 23.
Credit: ESA, NASA/SOHO/Goddard Space Flight Center
On Jan. 23, 2013, at 9:55 a.m. EST, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection, or CME. Experimental NASA research models, based on observations from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, show that the CME left the sun at speeds of around 375 miles per second, which is a fairly typical speed for CMEs.
Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days later.
Earth-directed CMEs can cause a space weather phenomenon called a geomagnetic storm, which occurs when they connect with the outside of the Earth’s magnetic envelope, the magnetosphere, for an extended period of time. In the past, CMEs of this speed have not caused substantial geomagnetic storms. They sometimes cause auroras near the poles but are unlikely to affect electrical systems on Earth or interfere with GPS or satellite-based communications systems.
A slightly slower CME that was not Earth-directed, also erupted earlier in the day.