Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun.

By Phil Plait | April 30, 2012 11:30 am

The Sun is feisty. Rising and falling packets of ionized gas (called plasma) below its surface generate fierce magnetic fields, which store vast amounts of energy. This can give rise to such features as sunspots, explosions like flares and coronal mass ejections, and huge, towering plumes of plasma called prominences.

While observing the Sun yesterday, April 29, my pal and friend of the BA Blog Alan Friedman captured an amazing sequence of shots of an eruptive prominence, one that doesn’t simply fall back down to the solar surface, but also blasts material out into space:

[Click to greatly enfilamentate.]

Wow! Alan estimates that at its peak the eruption was 150,000+ kilometers (100,000 miles) in height — compare that to the size of the Earth, a mere 13,000 km (8000 miles) in diameter. Yowza.

He also made a color image of it which is lovely and terrifying…. and slightly familiar. It didn’t take me long to recognize it. That treacherous profile, that conniving nose, that sinister haircut…

Oh, it’s clear who’s really behind this eruption:


[UPDATE: Good news, everyone! When I posted this on Google+, commenter Artemis Entreri mentioned it looks more like Professor Farnsworth. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that myself! I blame Wernstrom.]

Image credit: Alan Friedman, used by permission; The Simpsons™ & © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved. Used under The Fair Use Act. And yes, I’ll admit it looks more like Abe Simpson than Burns, but if I used Abe I could’t write the headline I did. And the nose is definitely Burns’. Also? BURNS. Because it’s hot. So clearly this was the correct choice.

Related Posts:

A fiery angel erupts from the Sun
The delicate tendrils of a solar dragon
GORGEOUS solar eruption
The Sun’s angry red spot
The face of our star
Giant sunspots are giant


Comments (22)

  1. chief

    So not content on just blocking out Springfield, Burns now does his work direct.

    Scary. Cool and Informative.

  2. Phil Plait, you are a treasure.

  3. RayG


  4. Bubba

    I think it looks more like the Grinch.

  5. arabwhipmonk

    Why the title? (I guess I’m missing a pop culture reference here)

  6. Chris A.

    cf. “The Simpsons: Who Shot Mr. Burns?: Part 1” (1995)

  7. Martin


  8. julianpenrod

    Basically, a scant minimum of information, but an aggrewssive emphasis on pop culture referecne, even down to the exclamations. And all to the unwitting adulation of a guaranteed audience who don’t realize they are getting nothing but aimless, vacuous doggerel. While Phil Plait is paid the equivalent of someone providing something other than an empty, disinterested five second knock off.

  9. Wzrd1

    @9, yet Phil makes SO much more money than you do to make a comment or blog entry!

    @Phil, any estimate on the mass of that erupted plasma?

  10. Martin

    @9, Dude, just check related posts… and Wiki or whatever as any interested person would do. And leave my culture and my people alone. Really, you don’t have to visit this site.. you have my approval. Bye now, cheers :)

  11. Chris A.

    Julian Penrod = chemtrail moonbat. Need we say more?

  12. VinceRN

    I can force Mister Burns into the image, but what I really saw is that dragon thing from Neverending Story, about where Burns’ hair would be and looking to the left of the frame.

    Also, I just went and read some of #9’s writings elsewhere on the web. Wow.

  13. Brian Too

    Crowd: Boo!
    Burns: Are they booing me?
    Smithers: Ah, no sir, they are saying Boo-Urns!
    Burns: Are you people saying boo, or Boo-Urns?
    Crowd: Boo!
    Moleman: I was saying Boo-Urns!

    – “A Star is Burns”, 1995, Season 6

  14. chief

    @9. To those who share the interest into which Phil Blogs, we do not need a lot of information to draw conclusions and understand the topic being presented. We understand that Mr. Plait owns this Blog and choses to share items of his interest drawing on his own interests and experiences in the life long fields of which he as earned his Dr’s degree(s). I would love to be able to step into his shoes for a short time to meet the people and experiences (and hands on) that have been encountered along the way. (working on Hubble design, etc). wow.

    My world expands in all directions when presented with new facts.

  15. Personally, I think that one photo also looks a lot like Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb.

  16. Alan estimates that at its peak the eruption was 150,000+ kilometers (100,000 miles) in height…

    Or, not quite half the distance from the Earth to the moon. Yikes!

  17. Svlad Cjelli

    Of course, #9, I was completely oblivious to the pop-culture before you saved me. I thought NASA had really discovered an old man in the sun this week!

  18. #9 Julian Penrod:
    ( The man who recently accused Phil of being illiterate, but doesn’t even use capitals in his own name… )
    You seem to be labouring under the delusion that anyone here actually gives a rodent’s rectum about your opinion, or any of your insane rantings. Please feel free to go and make a moron of yourself somewhere else, before the nice men in the white coats come to take you back to your comfy padded room.

  19. This_Guy

    #9 is free to voice his/her opinion as much as the next person. Just because it is all rhetoric and devoid of facts/value does not mean they should be censored.

    It would be interesting to know just WHAT axe that #9 is grinding tho…

  20. bouch

    @16 – I see that, but I also remember that even Doof thought Professor Destructicon’s plan to set fire to the sun was pointless. “Dude you really gotta let that one go, it’s a ball of fire, it makes no sense.”

  21. Meg

    No, no, no–you’re all wrong. It’s clearly Heat Miser!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar