The Sun blows some gas to Venus

By Phil Plait | November 25, 2011 7:02 am

On November 15, the Sun had a minor eruption on its surface that launched a prominence — a towering arc of ionized gas — into space. Sometimes these prominences collapse back down to the surface, and sometimes they wind up ejecting that material into space. This one did a little of both:

The animation was made from images taken over the course of 13 hours by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The images are false-color; what you see as orange is really ultraviolet light, where the energized gas glows brilliantly. This particular event sent some gas more or less toward Venus, where probably not much will happen. This isn’t like a major flare or coronal mass ejection… but it’s still cool.

Prominences occur all the time (click the picture here to see a gorgeous one from last year), and generally don’t wind up affecting us here on Earth. Still, it’s fascinating to watch the gas — which is hot enough to have its electrons stripped off its atoms, so it follows the Sun’s magnetic field as strongly or even more strongly than it does the Sun’s gravitational field — writhe and seethe under these tremendous forces.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: prominence, SDO, Sun, ultraviolet

Comments (9)

  1. Great clip thanks BA & SDO. :-)

    But .. Only as far as Venus, BA? ;-)

    Won’t the plasma from this prominence ultimately join the solar wind and thus travel as far as Pluto’s orbit and, indeed, beyond that to the heliopause (possibly just about lapping up against the Voyager spaceprobes as they speed out of the solar system – eventually?) where it will mix with the interstellar medium?

    *****

    PS. Curiousity launch countdown now at 1 day, 11 minutes and 11 seconds with a 70% chance of good weather & all systems go. :-)

  2. Wzrd1

    The sun has been rather active this week, with several CME’s lifting off. Fortunately, they’ve largely missed the Earth or we’d have some degree of inconvenience with satellite operations.
    Solar maximum is coming and if the wind-up is any indication, we’ll get to see quite a show when it peaks.

    Oh, Phil, your blog is the only traffic permitted from Discover’s networks after Discover began airing and permitting blogs from antivaxers, complete with editorial backing and incessant lies spouted on the comments on Tara Smith’s blog by Discover editors.
    It took some effort to keep your blog operational, but all other Discover traffic is blocked by our web filters, to prevent further spread of that poison.

  3. Polo

    When the flare colapses the material seems to travel millions of kilometers in a second (not possible obviously)… do you know how fast it is going?

  4. Gary Ansorge

    Far out photos. Way cool!

    ,,,and then there’s this aside,,,

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=neutrino-experiment-replicates&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_SPC_20111123

    Latest tests of the FTL neutrinos appears to substantiate the FTL. I expect the FTL aspect has nothing to do with FTL(in space/time) as such. I’m inclined to ascribe these results to quantum indeterminacy, ie, where the neutrino is when it’s changing from a muon to a tau neutrino. I doubt it can be in both states simultaneously so, where does the energy of the neutrino go during that transition?
    Does it “disappear” into the quantum foam? Could it not just instantaneously re-appear further along its flight path, possibly accounting for the 60 ns differential?

    If this has ANY validity, it might allow for effective FTL communications, just by oscillating the neutrinos from one state to another, gaining 60ns with each transition. It might also show a relation between the energy of the particle and how far it advances during the transition.

    This is a proposition, not a theory,,,but it’s fun to think about how such a minimal effect could lead to kinda/sorta FTL.

    Gary 7

  5. Grand Lunar

    I wonder if we can take advantage of this and see how the solar activity effects the Venusian atmosphere.

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Grand Lunar : Good thinking although I’m guessing Venus atmosphere has already been affected all its going to be. Wikipedia’s page on the Cytherean atmosphere notes :

    Its ionosphere separates the atmosphere from outer space and the solar wind. This ionized layer excludes the solar magnetic field, giving Venus a distinct magnetic environment. This is considered Venus’ induced magnetosphere. Lighter gases, including water vapor, are continuously blown away by the solar wind through the induced magnetotail.

    Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Venus

    Not sure if Venus gets aurorae from that induced magnetosphere – but if so they could be having a spectacular one soon! :-)

    @4. Gary Ansorge :

    Hmm… I must admit I’m not sure what the FTL neutrinos situation is currently with the BBC world news saying this :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15830844

    & the new Crux blog saying this :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2011/11/22/faster-than-light-neutrinos-confirmed-in-one-way-yes-in-another-no/

    so I’m unsure and think there’s still an awful lot of uncertainty surrounding that issue.

    @2. Wzrd1 : November 25th, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Oh, Phil, your blog is the only traffic permitted from Discover’s networks after Discover began airing and permitting blogs from antivaxers, complete with editorial backing and incessant lies spouted on the comments on Tara Smith’s blog by Discover editors. It took some effort to keep your blog operational, but all other Discover traffic is blocked by our web filters, to prevent further spread of that poison.

    I guess that’s been fixed because I can access the other Discover blogs now & would presume others can too. Just in case folks wanted that situation updated.

  7. Gary Ansorge

    6. Messier Tidy Upper

    If one considers the neutrino results as a quantum level event, with the neutrinos popping in and out of existence as they transform from one state to another, then there is no FTL, though the effect is to allow the neutrinos to arrive earlier.

    Unfortunately, while I have some knowledge of QM, it’s not rigorous enough(ie, my math skills aren’t up to the calculations) to decide if this proposition has any validity,,,it merely derives from my visual imagery of the event.

    So, any quantum physicists out there want to demolish this idea? It should be easy enough,,,

    Gary 7

  8. Very cool… this filament prompted me to image it with my humble PST: http://youtu.be/3HDxc5PtN1g

  9. Matt B.

    WOOHOO. My employer is blocking streaming audio and video, but that one got through.

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