Rain on the sun

By Tom Yulsman | February 27, 2013 2:40 pm

NASA recently released this video of a phenomenon called “coronal rain.” It is astonishingly beautiful, and the scale of it is simply mind-boggling.

If you haven’t already seen it elsewhere (it has been making the rounds on Youtube), it’s well worth stopping what you’re doing and taking a look.

Obviously, coronal rain isn’t the liquid stuff that we experience here on Earth. Instead of water, it consists of plasma in the sun’s corona.

Because plasma is electrically conductive, it responds strongly to magnetic fields. And in the case of coronal rain, the plasma cools, condenses and aligns along solar magnetic field lines. This is what produced the incredible filamentary looping structures seen in the video.

According to NASA, this event was particularly noteworthy. Here’s an excerpt from the agency’s description of what happened:

Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun’s lower right limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays – a phenomenon known as coronal rain.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy
  • Jon Claerbout

    Beautiful but… Some kind of waves propagate on those rings and they seem to go downward on both sides. We clearly look thru one ring, but maybe there is another ring perpendicular to it, with axis azimuth rotated 90 degrees. Downgoing waves would look to us like falling objects.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tom.yulsman Tom Yulsman

      Thanks for that perspective Jon. I wish there were something like the Facebook “like” button here. I’d hit it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/debra.e.shephard Debra Ellis Shephard

        upper right corner on videa has a thumbs up button…
        videa? hmm must be a female…I gave you a thumbs up too

  • Jon Claerbout

    Thank you. I think I just now “up’ed” your comment.

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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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