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Nov 17 2012

Sun vomits forth giant prominence

Think about the scale of this particular flare, which was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory yesterday. I know it’s hard to imagine, with it zoomed in like this, but this is absolutely immense. Eyeballing it against a “size of stars” image I have up on the wall, I’d say both ends of this flare are at least as wide as Wolf 359, a distant red dwarf star. And it’s probably dozens of times wider than Earth.

It’s a good damn thing this flare isn’t aimed anywhere toward us. Sure, our magnetosphere could probably shield us, but not without repercussions.

As Troythulu and I were discussing on Twitter when he linked this, it’s absolutely no wonder to me that people would worship the sun, a tangible, massive, and powerful entity, without which life couldn’t exist here. Compared to other religions, I totally get sun worship.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Greg Laden

    Here is a solar prominence smaller than the one that happened but with something tossed in there for scale:

    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/525037main_FAQ1-orig_full.jpg

    If you have an iPad you should get 3D Sun. Here are some screen shots of it:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/11/17/huge-eruption-on-sun/

    You can set it with alerts so if anything happens on the sun it will beep.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Ah dammit, now I want an iPad so I can hear a beep the next time the sun tries to kill us all.

  3. 3
    Greg Laden

    For the android:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.threeDsun&hl=en

  4. 4
    Argle Bargle

    It’s a good damn thing this flare isn’t aimed anywhere toward us. Sure, our magnetosphere could probably shield us, but not without repercussions.

    Sometime sooner or later, probably sooner, one of those prominences will be heading our way. It’ll probably knock out GPS, communications, and other satellites, and could even shut down electrical power grids. High currents in the magnetosphere can induce high currents in power lines, blowing out electric transformers and power stations. The damage to satellites and power grids could be very expensive and disruptive.

  5. 5
    Lofty

    Sometime sooner or later, probably sooner, one of those prominences will be heading our way. It’ll probably knock out GPS, communications, and other satellites, and could even shut down electrical power grids. High currents in the magnetosphere can induce high currents in power lines, blowing out electric transformers and power stations. The damage to satellites and power grids could be very expensive and disruptive.

    Given enough time all major transmission lines will be underground HVDC (because of renewables), transformers will be properly protected, all long distance communications will be fibre optic, and a solar flare will cause a bit of a nuisance to people still using GPS. But if the flare hit us in the next couple of decades, it would be tough.

  6. 6
    lpetrich

    Even more, the Earth could not exist in the form that it has without the Sun. Notice that it isn’t mostly hydrogen or helium, like Jupiter or Saturn, and that it isn’t largely water, either. That comes from forming where all these volatile materials would get boiled off.

  7. 7
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Cheers. Solar flares rock. Superluminous.

  8. 8
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Well, see now my brain demands that there exist a primary-school orientated educational video called Our Vomiting Sun, circa 1975.

    Here’s something you can add to web pages for those who don’t do “apps” and “phones”. http://www.n3kl.org/sun/status.html Plus, make your page cooler and/or freak out people. Win/win!

  9. 9
    Skip White

    The Locutus figure on my desk thanks you for your mention of Wolf 359.

  10. 10
    Jason Thibeault

    Was wondering if someone would mention the Battle of the Borg. Well done!

  11. 11
    Psychopomp Gecko

    I don’t suppose there was a family of four in an experimental shuttlecraft in the path of the flare that could gain superpowers, was there?

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