Solar Belch: KaPOW! Spluuuurt! SPLAT!

By Tom Yulsman | June 21, 2013 11:15 am

A closeup of a gargantuan eruption of plasma on the sun’s surface on June 7 was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Click on the image for a larger version. And check out the text and additional images below to learn what happened when the stuff splattered back down onto the sun’s surface. (Image: NASA / SDO / P. Testa-CfA)

On June 7, the sun belched and made a mess — to the great delight of astronomers.

The gargantuan eruption blasted billions of tons of plasma burning at 18,000 degrees F into space. It’s the dark filamentous stuff blasting out from the sun’s lower right quadrant in the closeup image above, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. And when some of it landed back on the sun’s surface, the resulting splatter gave astronomers insights that may help them gain a better understanding of how stars form.

Check out this animation of SDO images of the entire event — make sure to click on the still image to go to the movie:

Plasma erupts from the lower right quadrant of the sun’s surface and splashes back down. Click on the image for a movie of the event. (Animation: NASA / SDO / P. Testa-CfA)

When blobs of plasma fell back down onto the sun’s surface at a velocity of 900,000 miles per hour, they heated up to nearly 2 million degrees F, creating hot spots that glowed in the ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which designed a key SDO instrument.

Here’s another movie of the event, this one in super-closeup — and as before, click on the image to watch the animation:

A super closeup animation of the event shows blobs of plasma falling to the sun’s surface. Click on the still image to watch the movie. (Animation: NASA / SDO / P. Testa—CfA)

Visually, all of this action is compelling enough. But the pictures also reveal new detail about what happens when material falls onto a star’s surface.

That’s important because a star like our sun forms by accreting material from a giant disk of dust and gas that surrounds it in the early stages of its life. Astronomers have been able to observe star formation and evolution using the Hubble Space Telescope and other instruments. Those observations combined with computer modeling have given them a pretty good idea how the process works. But the devil is always in the details.

Among those details: What materials accrete to an infant star as it is growing, and how fast does it happen? Ongoing observations of our own star, the sun — and specifically what happens when material falls onto it — are helping astronomers answer those questions.

“We often study young stars to learn about our Sun when it was an ‘infant,’” says Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer Paola Testa (quoted in a CfA press release today). “We’re doing the reverse and studying our Sun to better understand distant stars.”

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts
  • Dr.M.A. Padmanabha Rao

    LATEST DISCOVERIES IN SOLAR PHYSICS IN 2013 RELATED TO YOUR ARTICLE:

    1. M.A. Padmanabha Rao,

    Discovery
    of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission causing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and UV dominant
    optical

    radiation,

    IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP),
    Volume 3, Issue 2 (Mar. – Apr. 2013), PP 56-60, http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol3-issue2/H0325660.pdf

    2. M.A. Padmanabha Rao,

    Discovery
    of Self-Sustained 235-U Fission Causing Sunlight by Padmanabha Rao Effect,

    IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP),
    Volume 4, Issue 2 (Jul. – Aug. 2013), PP 06-24, http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4-issue2/B0420624.pdf

    EXCERPTS OF THE PAPER: Sunlight phenomenon being
    one of the most complex phenomena in science evaded from previous researchers. Understanding
    the phenomenon needed advanced knowledge in the fields of nuclear physics,
    X-ray physics, and atomic spectroscopy. A surprise finding, optical emission
    detected from Rb XRF source in 1988 led to the discovery of a previously
    unknown atomic phenomenon causing Bharat radiation emission followed by optical
    emission from radioisotopes and XRF sources reported in 2010 [10]. The same
    phenomenon was found causing the Sunlight. However, it took nearly 25 years of
    research to reach the current level of understanding the Sunlight

    phenomenon reported here.

    BREAKTHROUGHS:

    (1) On the basis of fusion, many solar lines
    could not be identified previously and what causes these lines remained
    puzzling. Though 11 solar lines could be identified by other researchers, they
    became questionable. The significant breakthrough has come when it became
    possible now to identify as many as 153 lines on the basis of uranium fission
    taking place on Sun’s core surface. Surprisingly, the fission products released
    in Chernobyl reactor accident in 1986 also seem to be present in solar flares.

    (2) Explained what are Sun’s dark spots and
    their cause.

    (3) For the first time, it is shown what
    constitutes Dark Matter and showed existence of Dark Matter in Sun.

    (4) It is explained with unprecedented detail
    how Bharat Radiation from fission products (radioisotopes) causes Sunlight by
    an atomic phenomenon known as Padmanabha Rao Effect.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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