ESO Turns its ALMA Eyes on the Sun

The European Southern Observatory has begun imaging the Sun for the first  time, using its Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)—a suite of large dish-type telescopes located on a plateau 16,000 feet above sea level in the arid Chilean Andes. ALMA’s capabilities to observe in millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths allow imaging of the Sun’s dynamic chromosphere and…

Supplement Your Day With This Calcium Image of the Sun

Our Sun may be made up of 98% hydrogen and helium but the remaining two percent comprises many other elements, detectable by their unique absorption lines within the gamut of white light we receive on Earth. One of those elements is calcium, which exists in ionized form in relatively tiny amounts in the Sun’s chromosphere…

This Video of a Sunspot in Motion Will Blow Your Mind

Yesterday, io9.com writer Robert Gonzalez shared a truly incredible image of a sunspot taken by the New Solar Telescope (NST) at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California. The detail of the magnetically-active region and surface of our home star is simply stunning, thanks to the NST’s new Visible Imaging Spectrometer — literally setting a new…

Here Comes the Sun! CME Headed Toward Earth, Saturday Delivery

As you read this, a huge cloud of charged solar particles is speeding toward our planet, a coronal mass ejection resulting from an X1.4-class flare that erupted from sunspot 1520 on July 12. The CME is expected to collide with Earth’s magnetic field just after 6 a.m. EDT Saturday, potentially affecting satellite operations and tripping…

A Growing Sunspot: AR1416

This animation, made from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows active region 1416 as it rotated into view over the past week, doubling in size as it approached the center of the Sun’s disk. According to SpaceWeather.com’s Dr. Tony Phillips, AR1416 is magnetically charged in such a way as to be ready to…

Solar Nirvana

Hot off the presses, here’s a stunning full-disc solar photo by the inimitable Alan Friedman, taken on November 6, 2011 from his location in Buffalo, NY. Absolutely gorgeous! The enormous sunspot region AR 1339 can be seen just right of the center of the Sun. It’s nearly 17 times wider than Earth! Hydrogen alpha (Ha)…

One “Big Blemish” – AR 1339

Another fantastic image by Alan Friedman, this shows the massive sunspot region AR 1339 as it appeared on November 5, 2011 while in the process of rotating into view – and aim! – of Earth. Estimated at about 17 times the width of Earth, AR 1339 contains some gigantic sunspots capable of producing high-powered solar…

The Sun’s Still At It!

‘Tis the season…the season for solar activity, that is! Last week was just the beginning, even though it saw some of the most powerful solar flares of the past four years send charged solar particles streaming toward Earth. Luckily our magnetosphere was in such a position to absorb much of it, creating some beautiful aurora…

Firing Off Flares

Can’t see the video below? Click here. Here’s a look at the activity on the Sun that’s gotten many talking about solar storms this week. Taken with the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA 335 camera channel, which is sensitive to light emitted by Iron-14 ions in the Sun’s active corona layer, this video spans about two…

A Solar Bullet

Can’t see the video below? Click here. Around 12:38 pm EST today, an energetic sunspot region on the Sun released a flare in our direction. The video above, a crop from an SDO AIA 171 mpeg, shows the shifting coronal loops surrounding sunspot 1158 as it rotates into view over the past day or so….

Pillar of Fire

Ok it’s not fire, it’s plasma, but it’s nevertheless a wonderful image by space photographer Alan Friedman showing a coronal ejection towering over 200,000 miles above the surface of the sun. It was taken on July 27, 2010. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) occur when particularly large magnetic loops filled with plasma “snap” and expel their…

Solar Maelstrom

A powerful sunspot creates a spinning whirlpool of magnetic activity around itself in this detail from an SDO image (AIA 304) taken today, June 24. Sunspots are darker areas on the sun’s surface (photosphere) where a “bubble” of magnetic fields have risen from the interior and “pushed aside” the hotter layers at the surface to…