Rain on the Sun

By Phil Plait | April 19, 2012 12:16 pm

After I posted the video of the solar eruption earlier this week, I got a lot of questions about why material fell back from the explosion onto the Sun. The quick answer: gravity! A lot of the material from a prominence like that falls back onto the Sun because of the Sun’s strong gravity. Since the material is an ionized plasma – a gas stripped of one or more electrons — it follows the magnetic field lines of the Sun, so you can see graceful arcs of this stuff falling back down after the blast (see Related Posts below for links to more detailed descriptions of this phenomenon).

Oh, why describe it when I can show you? This video is from the NASA/JAXA Hinode spacecraft which observes X-rays from the Sun. It caught the event in loving detail:

See? Gravity does the work, but magnetism does the steering.

Tip o’ the phased plasma rifle in the 40 Watt range to Camilla Corona SDO.

Related Posts:

GORGEOUS solar eruption!
Desktop Project Part 8: From filament to prominence
The Sun decided to blow off a little steam today. Twice.
Gorgeous flowing plasma fountain erupts from the Sun
A fiery angel erupts from the Sun

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (12)

  1. Chris

    And each one of those “rain drops” would vaporize half of North America. I’m probably way underestimating the size of those.

  2. T-storm

    Very strange.

    It’s amazing what can happen in 6,000 yrs.

  3. James Evans

    so you can see graceful arcs of this stuff falling back down

    Yeah, it’s so, well, beautiful, it almost takes on a surreal quality like you couldn’t possibly be watching the real thing, but instead are looking at a really well-done, yet slightly embellished animation or simulation.

  4. Vladimir Putin

    This is the difference between NASA and other space agencies, especially JAXA and ESA which have completely abysmal to nonexistent public outreach efforts. How many years has Hinode been on orbit, 6, 7? I see maybe two other videos out there from this device. How many pictures have you seen from the ESA Venus orbiter? One? Maybe? Did you even know it existed? Compare this to something like SDO where I can literally stream live data to my phone with a free app.

  5. flip

    I could watch that a million times over! It’s kind of like watching an extra slow-motion film of a balloon full of water being popped. (Only bigger and not so much with the water)

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    Gives a whole new meaning to the sunshower phenomenon! ūüėČ

    (Y’know, when its raining but its still sunny, usually.)

    @2. T-storm : That took a lot less than 6,000 years, mate! ūüėČ

    Actually I’m not sure even with the clock at the bottom of the clip whether that’s real time – so just seconds – or time lapse hence many hours.

    @1. Chris : Not quite sure what the scale there is either – a line showing 1 AU might be a good addition to this clip too.

    It’s pretty neat just as it is mind you, I’m not complaining. :-)

  7. Sanjay

    Beautiful! For the millionth time, I’m wondering why there’s no ‘slow-mo’ or ‘loop’ buttons on YouTube.
    And videos like this almost make me sad that there’s no sound in space :)

  8. Tony Mach

    @Messier Tidy Upper
    The clock is most definitely hours:minutes:seconds UTC, the video runs from 16:20:11 to 20:14:15 on 16-Apr-2012.

    So this stuff can fly for dozens of minutes through the solar atmosphere! A scale would be nice, though.

  9. Walter Merino

    Awesome clip… And the clock helps us have an idea of the real time. Almost 4 actual hours past in 19 secs of video. So, each second of the video is about 12.6 real minutes.

  10. Dumb Al

    You got a lot of questions asking why stuff falls into the sun? People with interest in the Universe are supposed to already know about gravity. Never mind all the deeply esoteric ideas like escape velocity and such. One just needs to know that matter is attracted to matter and a big blob of matter attracts strongly.

  11. Lenny V

    Hey Mr. Bad Astronomer, Sir…

    Regarding gravity and the sun, just how far away from said galactical body would a person have to be to experience earth-equivalent/1G gravity?

    Would be interesting to know, on a purely Trivial Pursuit level of knowledge of course, but interesting the same.

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 8. Tony Mach & 9. Walter Merino : Aha! Got it now. Cheers for that. :-)


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