I wasn’t going to post another Venus Transit shot, because my mousing arm still hurts from putting together the gallery for this morning.
But holy geez, I saw this, and c’mon!
I mean, seriously. Wow. [Click to cythereanate.]
This image of Venus as it entered the Sun’s disk was taken by the NASA/JAXA (Japanese space agency) spacecraft Hinode on June 5. The detail is breathtaking. The ring around Venus is due to scattering and refraction — light from the Sun passes through the upper part of the Venusian atmosphere and gets bent toward us. You can also see some texture on the Sun’s surface (really packets of hot gas rising and cool gas sinking) and some nice prominences off the Sun’s limb — material lifted against the Sun’s massive gravity by its equally ridiculously strong magnetic field.
That’s a whole planet there, folks, nearly the same size as Earth, roughly 40 million kilometers (25 million miles) from Earth, back lit by a star 110 million km (70 million miles) farther away yet and well over 100 times bigger than Venus!
And we knew about it, predicted it, aimed our machines at it, and observed it so we can learn more and see more beauty. The things we humans do when inspired by the Universe. Amazing.
Image credit: JAXA/NASA/Lockheed Martin
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.
- 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
Did you know there was a solar eclipse last week? Probably not, since — due to the geometry of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth — it occurred over Antarctica.
However, it was seen by the Japanese Sun-observing satellite Hinode (pronounced, "HEE-no-day"; meaning "sunrise"). As the satellite moved around the Earth, its viewing angle of the Moon changed, so it saw the eclipse not just once but three times, making for a very odd video of the event:
This change in perspective is called parallax, and besides tripling the eclipse fun, it also manifests itself as a severe curve to the Moon’s motion in the video. If the satellite were hovering over the Earth, it would’ve seen just one eclipse as the Moon slowly moved across the Sun’s face (if it had been over Antarctica at the time). But the satellite orbits the Earth at a height of about 700 km (400 miles), moving at several kilometers per second. That motion is reflected in the apparent path of the Moon in the sky, and so it saw not just one but three eclipses. Something like this happened earlier in the year with another solar satellite, and I have a more a more detailed explanation in a post about that event.
One of the biggest positive aspects of being a space-faring race is the change in perspective we get by seeing things from a different angle… and in this case, it’s literally a continuously changing perspective. It’s a great reminder that the way we perceive the Universe from the Earth’s surface is not the only way to do so, nor necessarily the best way.
Credit: Credit: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
- ANOTHER insanely awesome shot of the solar eclipse?! (an earlier solar eclipse video by Hinode, and very cool)
- An eclipse from space with a two-way Moon
- A Swiftly passing asteroid
- When the Earth takes a bite out of the Sun
Y’know, I should never deal in superlatives. I said Thierry Legault’s shot of the ISS during the solar eclipse last week was the best picture of it, but now, as amazing as that picture is, I think we’ve found something to tie it: the Japanese solar observing satellite Hinode took this jaw-dropping video:
OK, I’ll say it: Holy Haleakala!
Hinode (pronounced HEEN-oh-day, which I’m telling you because I always say HI-node in my head when I see it) orbits the Earth, and has a near-continuous view of the Sun. When the Moon slipped between us and our star on January 4, Hinode had what might have been the best view. This video was made using images from the X-Ray Telescope, or XRT, and is sensitive to objects at temperatures of millions of degrees — the Sun’s magnetic field routinely generates such energies. You can see the looping material on the Sun, following the arcing lines of magnetism. The Moon is dark at these wavelengths, so it appears black in the video.
The other cool thing is the size difference between the Sun and the Moon. The Sun is roughly 400x bigger than the Moon and 400x farther away, so they look about the same size in the sky. But the Moon orbits the Earth in an ellipse, and can change its distance to us by quite a bit, well over 10% — that means its apparent diameter as seen on Earth can change by 10% too.