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Space Science

Massive Explosion On the Sun 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the reminds-me-that-our-sun-is-a-molten-deathsplosion-factory dept.
Endoflow2010 sends word of an enormous eruption that occurred on the Sun this morning. Phil Plait describes it thus: "What you’re seeing here is a solar flare (an enormous explosion of pent-up magnetic energy) coupled with a prominence (a physical eruption of gas from the surface). This event blasted something like a billion tons of material away from the Sun. Note the size of it, too: while it started from a small region on the Sun’s surface, it quickly expanded into a plume easily as big as the Sun itself! I’d estimate its size at well over a million kilometers across." The attached video is well worth watching.

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Massive Explosion On the Sun

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  • That's what it looks like in the video...

    • by mangu (126918)

      My thoughts exactly. Only problem is it thought it was gas and it turned out to be diarrhea...

      • by dimeglio (456244)

        Unfortunately, gravity made most of it fall back on it's face.

        • by mr_shifty (202071)

          Actually, it was more likely powerful lines of electromagnetic force that drew the charged plasma in the explosion back down to the surface. The sun's electromagnetic field is extremely intense.

          • by v1 (525388)

            What youâ(TM)re seeing here is a solar flare (an enormous explosion of pent-up magnetic energy)

            What I don't yet understand is how you can have "pent-up magnetic energy"? So many of the quacks trying to push their perpetual motion machines claim they are harnessing the "power of magnetism", at which point the experts swoop in and point out you can't extract energy from a magnet. So how's the sun doing it?

            I suppose it's going to wind up something like a spring, where you wind it up by inputing energy,

            • So many of the quacks trying to push their perpetual motion machines claim they are harnessing the "power of magnetism", at which point the experts swoop in and point out you can't extract energy from a magnet.

              Magnetic energy is real.

              This may seem like a minor quibble, but in fact you can definitely extract energy from a magnet. Just let it attract a magnetically attractable object (iron ball), and harness the force it exerts on that object over a distance while it "falls" into the magnet. Work is just the integral of the dot product of force times distance, integrated over distance, and energy is the ability of a physical system (the magnet) to do work on another physical system (a magnetically attractable obj

              • by Jorl17 (1716772)
                Well then, there's an issue there, as you pointed out in your last sentence. You need to make the ball fall again...and for that you need to take it up, which means that you won't be getting any energy, as the energy needed to bring it up will be the same as that needed to bring it down. Unless, of course, you take the magnet away (so you don't need to overcome the magnetic force), but in that case you will have a) Moved the magnet and wasted energy there b) Had to make the ball stay still (the magnet would
        • Confucius say: You should never piss into the wind, nor away from a gravity well.

          *hits gong*

  • ... it's just passing gas.

    Those are all amazing videos though.

  • Could events like this be where the matter came from for building the planets?

    • I don't believe so [astronomyonline.org]. (Disclaimer: First Google result, quality not guaranteed.)
    • Long story short, no. This is an explosion of almost pure hydrogen, with some traces of helium and assorted impurities. The explosion that makes the matter for planets involves destroying an entire star in one go, and the interesting stuff like carbon, silicon, oxygen and the likes are all in the core of a star. If I take you apart, atom by atom, I have all the stuff I need to build a human. If you burp....well....it makes a bit of noise at least. The Sun just burped. That's all. Bear in mind that a
  • ...but it's a little hard to tell since the whole thing doesn't fit in the video frame.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:49PM (#36369610)

      If you want a more complete coverage of the event (not to mention a few more tasty videos) then there is a much better write up at The Sun Today .org [thesuntoday.org] which you should take a peek at.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        It all looks really rather odd. I assume the video is nowhere near real time as the matter appeared to move huge distance in a very short amount of time. As it takes light approximately 4.5 seconds to cross the sun and you would expect any explosion with subsequent ejection and return of matter to be considerably slower than that. It really does look altogether odd and abnormal. Some further clarification of the amount of time the event took would be really informative.

    • Astronomers work in powers of ten - if it's more than a tenth and less than ten times it's "the same size". You're the same size as your car on the scale of 500 miles. Slightly more formally, the scale of the visible ejecta in the video is of the same magnitude as the Sun. (Personally I'd say it covers a volume about 1/3 that of the Sun from the looks of it)
  • In orbit.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by intellitech (1912116) * on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:15PM (#36369290)

    I can't wait to see what effect this has on those electronic things in orbit..

    • by Tasha26 (1613349)
      Me too! Other than having to apply extra SPF50 sun lotion today, does anyone know if those blasts are harmful to us?
  • Better video (Score:5, Informative)

    by chebucto (992517) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:18PM (#36369312) Homepage

    You need to see both to get a fuller appreciation of the scale, but the 2nd video in the article is more impressive, IMHO:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpkXhlPIINQ [youtube.com]

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Agreed. Pretty incredible in high def. One thing I noticed was the flash as some of the material crashed back into the sun.

      • by imsabbel (611519)

        And some of the flashes are as big as the earth...

        This 2nd movie truely is the most impressive one I have ever seen of the sun.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        One thing I noticed was the flash as some of the material crashed back into the sun.

        Yup. Never seen anything like that before.

        By far the most impressive part of this most impressive video.

        Have to wonder what sort of process that involved. Massive billion-ton smear of plasma the size of a planet, yet still essentially gaseous, slapping into the surface of similar plasma but at higher pressure, at ridiculous speed (even accounting for the speed multiple of the video). Was the flash all electrical disturbance, or was there some nuclear-collision activity?

    • by Twinbee (767046)

      Indeed, any sun animations I've seen in the past tend to be juddery low resolution messes at 2-5 crappy frames per second.

      This latest one is MUCH more impressive. They've upped their game I think :)
      Must eat up a ton of video to have to record so frequently.

    • NASA source footage (Score:5, Informative)

      by WallaceAndGromit (910755) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @09:20PM (#36370254) Homepage
      Go here and you can view animations of the sun using all the different telescopes on SDO...

      http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/data/aiahmi/rangeform.php [nasa.gov]

      Instructions to view the subject solar flare: select browse by date range, enter 2011-06-07 00:00:00 as the beginning and 2011-06-07 12:00:00 as the end dates, select movie as the display, select resolution 1024x1024, and set nth = 1, submit and enjoy. Also, you can play with the different telescopes.
      • by kramulous (977841)

        Absolutely fabulous link.

        Full marks.

      • Instructions to view the subject solar flare: select browse by date range, enter 2011-06-07 00:00:00 as the beginning and 2011-06-07 12:00:00 as the end dates, select movie as the display, select resolution 1024x1024, and set nth = 1, submit and enjoy. Also, you can play with the different telescopes.

        You forgot to mention recompiling the kernel with the INCLUDE_SOLAR_FLARE_FROM_JUNE_07_2011 option set to 1.

  • by uigrad_2000 (398500) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:19PM (#36369326) Homepage Journal

    "It's nothing we really have to worry about," Young said in his video. "It's just really, really beautiful."

    Translation: You can begin panicking now!

  • Be careful (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:23PM (#36369366)

    Before you watch the video PLEASE find a way to do so without looking at it directly. A pinhole viewer (http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/pinhole3.html) will allow you to view your AVI files without suffering damage to your eyesight.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:23PM (#36369368) Homepage
    This video is speed up- the video contains about 12 hours of footage. Note also that given where the sun is in the solar cycle we can likely expect more similar events soon. If any of them end up heading more directly in the direction of Earth it could interfere badly with electronics, especially in satellites. But we haven't gotten a really bad flare since the 19th century, but then there were events that even interfered with telegraph lines. And our current electronics are a lot more sensitive than stuff they had back then.
    • by Ruke (857276)

      Back in 1989, we had a solar flare that knocked out Quebec's transmission system, spread auroras down to Texas, and made people panic, thinking that the Soviet Union had launched a first strike.

      Our electronics are more sensitive in a few senses; however, this does not mean they're more prone to failure. In the past 6 years or so, reliability standards have been put into place for the transmission and distribution systems in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. We're actually much better prepared for such

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @08:05PM (#36369758)
        I've worked in the NOC for 2 major telcos. Neither has any plan for solar flare events. When I brought it up I was literally laughed at. When I pulled down NASA's space weather data that rates solar flares effects on earth, correlated it with our network alarms and was able to show that given a certain size flare we were almost guaranteed to have a 10% increase in network alarms... a Huge spike only eclipsed by major Thunderstorms and hurricanes, I was laughed at even harder.

        It's not profitable to plan for rare events. It's profitable to plan for common events and let the insurance cover the catastrophes. The public interest be damned.
        • by Ruke (857276)
          When was this? I'm talking about the NERC standards that went from being opt-in to mandatory in, uh, June 2008, maybe? I'm not familiar with all of the CIP, EOP, and PRC standards; maybe there's nothing in there specifically to deal with a solar event. However, any time your transmission is down for an extended amount of time, potential fines do start piling up. It's gotten damned expensive to not be prepared for an emergency.
          • by dj245 (732906)
            NERC standards are pretty ambiguous in many cases. I only deal with the NERC standards for power generation units (not transmission lines) but for power generation, NERC standards only apply to "Critical" assets. "Critical" assets are currently defined (as far as I am aware) by the utilities themselves. In the future this will be defined by FERC/NERC.

            As I said, power generation and power transmission NERC standards may be different, but the standards that I see are oftentimes ambiguous and in many ca
        • by jasnw (1913892) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @11:04PM (#36370828)
          This is sad but true. I've been in the space weather business for 40 years, and was involved with the aftermath of the large geomagnetic storm that took out the power generator in Quebec mentioned in another post. There was quite a flurry of meetings with various energy agencies about what was to be done. Bottom line was that the space weather groups were asking that the power industry pay a lot of money for predictions and warnings that were not of the highest reliability (another sad-but-true fact). After the risk-management boys got done crunching the numbers, the power industry decided that it was cheaper to ignore the problem and live with the fact that they might lose a generator every 11 years or so. The insurance folks will pick up the monetary tab, and the Great Unwashed Public (also known as "the customers") will shiver in their dark unheated homes until things get fixed and like it. As long as these events can be legally treated as unpredictable "acts of God" there is no impetus for the power companies to do anything about them, free market be damned.
          • free market be damned

            Well, as an electric customer, I'd rather save a few bucks a year than have you guys spend it building redundancy for once-a-century events. Really. Now if this stuff was happening often and I was cold and shivering for too long, I might change my mind, but so far, so good.

            I deal with this shit all the time in I.T., do we want to spend $500,000 on a storage system that 'never' goes down and can handle fifteen times the load we could possibly generate, or $50,000 on a system that has a f

          • Bottom line was that the space weather groups were asking that the power industry pay a lot of money for predictions and warnings that were not of the highest reliability (another sad-but-true fact).

            Hello! McFly! It's not the power industry that pays - it's ME. The little guy at the end of the wire. And if you can't deliver reliable warnings, I can't see paying you.

            After the risk-management boys got done crunching the numbers, the power industry decided that it was cheaper to ignore the problem

            • by bye (87770)

              As long as these events can be legally treated as unpredictable "acts of God"

              Until you can provide timely and reliable predictions (which you admit you can't) then they are unpredictable acts of God and should be treated as such.

              He mentioned the prediction in his post: a Quebec type event every 10 years (a week of blackout coupled with a few hundred deaths) and a 1859 type event every 100 years (a month long blackout coupled with tens of thousands of deaths and after-effects for years (in addition to a big recession)).

              Do you need a specific date and precise position for landfall to convince you that it's worth protecting your house in a hurricane affected area, or are past precedents enough for you to protect yourself pro-activel

        • by reidconti (219106)

          It's not profitable to plan for rare events. It's profitable to plan for common events and let the insurance cover the catastrophes. The public interest be damned.

          As part of the public, I agree with this plan to not overspend to cover extremely rare contingencies.

          This is why I don't have hotspare houses on 3 different continents.

          • When the Internet, phones, TV and power all go out at once... and don't back up for a month or more because all the equipment is fried and there's not enough spare equipment to replace everything on the sun-side of the planet at once... you may think differently as you stare at the empty shelves of your local grocery store while your stomach gurgles.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If any of them end up heading more directly in the direction of Earth it could interfere badly with electronics, especially in satellites.

      Question to anyone who knows -

      Is it impossible to defend against this in any way other than pre-emptively? I would assume that usually, by the time we're aware of a massive flare, its effects would have already passed us by? It's not as if our monitoring equipment transmits faster than light, unless the detrimental effects of the blast moves slower than light.

      What I"m trying to say is, if I have a roll of foil, can I put it on my computer AFTER the flare or should I make a project of turning my computer roo

      • by Mt._Honkey (514673) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @08:58PM (#36370086)

        We often see them coming thanks to satellites like the one that made these movies. It takes hours-days for the flare to get from the sun to Earth, so there is time to prepare. I think it's hard to be sure exactly how hard any given flare will hit the Earth, though.

        I'm not sure if your foil-on-computer question is an analogy or not. On the personal scale I expect that your regular surge protector is sufficient. The disaster planning needs to be centered on the large-scale power grid, because it's the long power lines that build up the overvoltage, not your living room. We're not worried as much about your computer as we are half the power substations on earth exploding within an hour of each other.

        • ...there is time to prepare.

          We can launch a probe that connects to passing future aliens so they live a virtual human life (sort of an "inner light") on our doomed planet and our story will be told. After the experience, the alien will have learned to play a banjo.

        • Plus a largish number of flares will miss earth completely. I mean there's about 359 degrees of "miss" out there. And most of the "hit" area is a glancing blow at best.
          • by Coren22 (1625475)

            359 degrees in two directions at that (up down, left right) an incredibly small area.

  • IDNRTA (I did not read the article), is this video in actual time or some kind of sped up? If it's actual speed then those flames were moving insanely fast. Regardless of that aspect, they travel a very far distance.

    • by discord5 (798235)

      is this video in actual time or some kind of sped up

      Sped up, if you click the link you'll find out everything.

      • by LoudMusic (199347)

        Actually there is no reference to the time frame in the text, but using the time in the lower left of the video it looks like the "event" lasted about 5 hours.

  • by Digital Vomit (891734) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:34PM (#36369474) Homepage Journal
    I know...solar prominence...etc....but damned if that headline doesn't sound like something out of The Onion.
  • by gmuslera (3436) * on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @07:36PM (#36369498) Homepage Journal
    Noone can survive such explosion, not even the Sun. Maybe won't be apparent by now, but we will see the consequences of this next year.
    • by ThePeices (635180)

      No, as massive as this explosion is, it will have absolutely no significant effect on the sun itself, these explosions happen all the time. This one may be bigger than most, but it is still way too small to "damage" the sun itself, or have any long lasting effects.

      Its like thinking that a 10 Megaton nuke explosion on earth would cause long lasting effects on the entire planet itself. The nuke may be an enormous explosion, but it pales in comparison to the size and mass of Earth.

    • by black3d (1648913)

      Not sure if serious. :\

      While this is a large flare (from our perspective), it's fairly small historically. It just looks great because now we have hi-def video of such events that we didn't have 10 years ago. There have been far larger events on the sun. As the article says - "A good flare can release up to 10% of the Sun’s total energy" and this wasn't one of those.

    • by lennier (44736)

      Noone can survive such explosion

      He certainly can - he survived the sixties, after all [wikipedia.org].

      • by Elbereth (58257)

        That joke is rapidly losing all relevance, unfortunately. I used to bring it out pretty regularly, too, but there are too few people who remember Peter Noone.

  • I hope the EM waves don't disrupt any US networks, because then DoD would consider that a cyber attack and retaliate with thermonuclear weapons.

    • by robot256 (1635039)
      Result? Fewer nuclear bombs on earth and no noticeable effect to the sun! Unless we intend to send 10 billion of them, which I understand is more than the world's stockpile ATM.
    • by Sperbels (1008585)
      The Solarians will rue the day they decided to eff with the US. Nuke em!
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      You plan on nuking a giant multi billion year old nuclear explosion because it had a fluctuation its its explosivity? Good luck with that.

    • by lennier (44736)

      I hope the EM waves don't disrupt any US networks, because then DoD would consider that a cyber attack and retaliate with thermonuclear weapons.

      Against a fire boss? Everyone knows you should use ice magic for that.

  • The way they cropped the video of the sun makes it impossible to see a good part of the flare. Well, it is the bad astronomy blog. So what did I expect?

  • Events taking place on the surface of the sun should not be described as "morning." It's always noon on the sun. Duh.
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Events taking place on the surface of the sun should not be described as "morning." It's always noon on the sun. Duh.

      Since the sun is below the visible horizon at every location on the sun's surface, it's always midnight on the sun. Double-duh!

      (it's counter-intuitive, but if you look up the definition of "horizon", it's true)

      USA: We will land on Mars
      Russia: We will land on Venus
      Newfies: We be landin' on the SUN, boys!
      Everyone: Isn't it too hot?
      Newfies: Nah, what d'ye think we be, stupid? Be

  • I'd like to know if there was any more evidence for this:
    http://www.thesunisiron.com/ [thesunisiron.com]
    http://www.thesurfaceofthesun.com/ [thesurfaceofthesun.com]
    http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_sol01.htm [bibliotecapleyades.net]
    http://www.electric-cosmos.org/sun.htm [electric-cosmos.org]
    http://www.electricuniverse.info/Electric_Sun_theory [electricuniverse.info]

  • What would the impact have been on Earth if this had been pointing directly towards us? Would it have been on the scale of the Carrington event?

  • My preparations include making sure I remember to go look outside at night over the next few days. I live on the MA/CT line, and I've only ever seen the aurora once or twice in my life this far South... both times due to massive CMEs.

    I'll be on the lookout and have my camera and tripod standing by this time.

  • by microbee (682094) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @01:02AM (#36371522)

    I knew the assassination of Osama bin Laden wouldn't be the end of it.

  • What would happen if that explosion was pointed directly at the Earth?
  • Hotblack Desiato rocks :-))

  • I left the coffee pot on again, didn't I?

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