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Hinode Watches the Sun Weave Its Magnetic Web

Image of the Sun from NASA's SDO spacecraft AIA assembly showing a PFSS (Potential Field Source Surface) map of its magnetic field lines. (Credit: NASA/SDO and the AIA science team.)

Image of the Sun from NASA’s SDO spacecraft AIA assembly showing a PFSS (Potential Field Source Surface) map of its magnetic field lines. (Credit: NASA/SDO and the AIA science team.)

Many of the features seen on the Sun might look like tongues of flame or fiery eruptions, but there’s no fire or lava on the Sun – its energetic outbursts are driven by powerful magnetic fields that rise up from its internal regions and twist, loop, and coil far out into space.

In addition to these far-reaching lines there is a network of magnetic fields that cover the Sun’s “surface” (that is, its photosphere) like a web – a web outlined by the edges of large-scale features called supergranules. Created by rising zones of hot solar material, these 35,000km-wide “bubbles” on the photosphere carry bundles of magnetic regions to their edges, fueling the network.

What one team of researchers has now found , through long-term observations with the Hinode satellite, is that the supergranules are able to replenish the entire magnetic surface web in a surprisingly short time – only 24 hours.

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Four Years of SDO

It’s hard to believe it’s already been four years that NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has kept a watchful eye on our home star, but here we are: 2014, and the four-year anniversary of the Feb. 11 launch has come and gone. Amazing. But what’s even more amazing are all the incredible observations and discoveries SDO has made of the Sun in that relatively short time!

Check out the video above, a compilation from the talented people over at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, showing some of the best solar sights from SDO over the past four years.

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Watch the Sun’s Skin Split Open (and Then Heal Itself)

Like some kind of stellar superhero (or maybe a cosmic vampire!) our Sun’s surface splits apart and then fuses itself back together in this mesmerizing video from SDO and the folks at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center — check it out!

All right now, while the Sun doesn’t really have skin like we do or a hard surface like the Earth, it does have multiple layers of varying density and temperature, all wrapped and bound and pierced by intense magnetic fields (hm… sounds a little kinky!) This is what we’re seeing here — magnetic fields filled with super-hot solar plasma playing across the Sun. NASA even titled this video “Canyon of Fire” although that’s taking poetic license too… there’s no fire on the Sun.

Still, the event, which occurred on Sept. 29-30, is amazing to watch through SDO’s UV-sensitive eyes! Our home star is quite a dynamic thing (luckily for us and all life on Earth.)

Read more about what’s happening here.

Video credit: NASA/SDO/GSFC

Experience Eclipse Totality (VIDEO)

Totality — that brief period during a solar eclipse when the Moon is completely centered in front of the Sun’s disk — is a truly amazing sight, so much so that many people who have seen it once (a privileged group that doesn’t include me, sadly!) will travel across the globe in an effort witness it again and again.

During solar eclipse totality the sky not only becomes dark, dropping the temperature and sometimes even allowing stars to be seen, but also the Sun’s outer atmosphere is revealed around the silhouette of the Moon for a few short moments. Unfortunately this is not easily captured on camera because of the rapidly changing lighting situations, and when it is it pales in comparison to the real thing (or so I hear.)

“Diamond ring” effect seen during the Nov. 2012 total solar eclipse

The video above, taken during the November 14 eclipse from Queensland, shows the moments of totality pretty nicely although the streamer effect can’t really be made out. Still, we get a good idea of how the light changes and we can see another effect called “Baily’s Beads”, where sunlight peeks through some of the relief of the Moon’s terrain along its outer limb. Also the “diamond ring” effect can be seen as the Sun is uncovered.

Enjoy, and thanks to YouTube user solareclipse eclipsevidgvale for the upload!

“Birthday Candles” on the Sun

A cluster of coronal cells seen by SDO on June 17, 2011. (NASA/SDO AIA instrument)

Make a wish! Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory have identified new “birthday candle” structures in the Sun’s super-hot corona that may shed some light on the way its magnetic fields evolve — especially near the edges of vast, dark, wind-spewing coronal holes.

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A Solar “Danse Macabre”

Dark prominences swap material on the Sun on March 27-28, 2012. (NASA/SDO)

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a video on March 27 – 28 showing two large areas of “dark” plasma on the Sun’s limb, twisting and spiraling in our star’s complex magnetic field. The southern region bears an uncanny resemblance to three figures swaying to some spooky, unheard music… a real “danse macabre” on the Sun!

Watch the video here.

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