Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dark Fireworks on the Sun June 7, 2011

On June 7, 2011, the same day this video was taken, I said that something would happen in June. This is only part of what took place. NASA hasn't released the pictures of the stuff that didn't fall back into the sun. They waited more than a month to release this little bit of info. July 11, 2011

On June 7, 2011, Earth-orbiting satellites detected a flash of X-rays coming from the western edge of the solar disk. Registering only "M" (for medium) on the Richter scale of solar flares, the blast at first appeared to be a run-of-the-mill eruption--that is, until researchers looked at the movies.

"We'd never seen anything like it," says Alex Young, a solar physicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Half of the sun appeared to be blowing itself to bits."

NASA has just released new high-resolution videos of the event recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The videos are large, typically 50 MB to 100 MB, but worth the wait to download. Click on the arrow to launch the first movie, then scroll down for commentary:

"IN terms of raw power, this really was just a medium-sized eruption," says Young, "but it had a uniquely dramatic appearance caused by all the inky-dark material. We don't usually see that."

Solar physicist Angelos Vourlidas of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC calls it a case of "dark fireworks."

"The blast was triggered by an unstable magnetic filament near the sun's surface," he explains. "That filament was loaded down with cool1 plasma, which exploded in a spray of dark blobs and streamers."

The plasma blobs were as big as planets, many larger than Earth. They rose and fell ballistically, moving under the influence of the sun's gravity like balls tossed in the air, exploding "like bombs" when they hit the stellar surface.

Some blobs, however, were more like guided missiles. "In the movies we can see material 'grabbed' by magnetic fields and funneled toward sunspot groups hundreds of thousands of kilometers away," notes Young.

SDO also detected a shadowy shock wave issuing from the blast site. The 'solar tsunami' propagated more than halfway across the sun, visibly shaking filaments and loops of magnetism en route. [91 MB Quicktime]

Long-range action has become a key theme of solar physics since SDO was launched in 2010. The observatory frequently sees explosions in one part of the sun affecting other parts. Sometimes one explosion will trigger another ... and another ... with a domino sequence of flares going off all around the star.

"The June 7th blast didn't seem to trigger any big secondary explosions, but it was certainly felt far and wide," says Young.

It's tempting to look at the movies and conclude that most of the exploded material fell back--but that wouldn't be true, according to Vourlidas. "The blast also propelled a significant coronal mass ejection (CME) out of the sun's atmosphere."

He estimates that the cloud massed about 4.5 x1015 grams, placing it in the top 5% of all CMEs recorded in the Space Age. For comparison, the most massive CME ever recorded was 1016 grams, only a factor of ~2 greater than the June 7th cloud.2 The amount of material that fell back to the sun on June 7th was approximately equal to the amount that flew away, Vourlidas says.

As remarkable as the June 7th eruption seems to be, Young says it might not be so rare. "In fact," he says, "it might be downright common."

Before SDO, space-based observatories observed the sun with relatively slow cadences and/or limited fields of view. They could have easily missed the majesty of such an explosion, catching only a single off-center snapshot at the beginning or end of the blast to hint at what actually happened.


  1. Hi Lou =)

    Was this the moment that the Sun gave birth to whatever it was she gave birth to?

  2. Hi Eevee,

    Several earth-sized balls of matter ejected from the sun and some of them flew off into deep space. But no reports of new planets by NASA or the media yet.

  3. As if to give us a clue, they say that the blobs are as big, or bigger, than Earth. haha

  4. The original Earth sized blob appeared a couple of months ago.

    Does anybody know the approximate time period of this 7.5 second video?


  5. Hi Kaue,

    You notice no one in the media or in the public give a hoot about the sun or what is going on up there.

  6. Hello John!

    "The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare with a substantial coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7 that is visually spectacular. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface.

    SDO observed the flare's peak at 1:41 AM EST. SDO recorded these images in extreme ultraviolet light and they show a very large explosion of cool gas. It is somewhat unique because at many places in the eruption there seems to be even cooler material -- at temperatures less than 80,000K.

    When viewed in SOHO's coronagraphs, the event shows bright plasma and high-energy particles roaring from the Sun. This Earth-directed CME is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. Due to its angle, however, effects on Earth should be fairly small. Nevertheless, it may generate space weather effects here on Earth in a few days."

    Credit: NASA SDO

    I going to surf the SDO site and see what's up


  7. Lou,

    That's the first thing I notice. Which leads me to believe that the sun a is the 'hottest spot' in this solar system. haha

  8. Hi Lou,
    Thanks for posting this.
    What a marvelous show, especially when you realize the huge size of the sun and therefore the enormous magnitude of such a happening.

    In your answer to Eevee you said.

    [quote]Several earth-sized balls of matter ejected from the sun and some of them flew off into deep space. But no reports of new planets by NASA or the media yet.[/quote]

    I wonder what the conditions are for such an ejected earth-sized ball of matter to become eventually a real planet.
    I mean, I assume that it must have at least a certain speed to be able to escape the sun’s huge gravity forces because otherwise it would be pulled back to it, but also a certain trajectory that will put that mass in orbit.
    From then on it will be as you said slowly pushed further away from it and start growing due the constant stream of charged particles ejected from the upper atmosphere of the Sun.

    Is this correct, or is there more to it?

  9. Hi Space,

    The sun can spit stuff anywhere in the solar system even hitting some balls out of the ballpark beyond the edge. Those balls that remain near the surface will achieve momentum by the spin of the sun, which drags most sizable objects around in orbits. Then there are other things with stealthy mass type substances spit out by the sun, that don't compute with modern day physics. And that's a whole other matter. lol

  10. Hi Lou,

    Nasa speculated that in the explosion half of the matter fell back towards the sun and half (4.5 x 1015 grams) was propelled into space.

    Considering that earth mass is about 5 x 1025 kilograms, the Nasa estimate seems ridiculously low.

    Can you ask Milton how much matter was really ejected into space?

    Thanx, Erik

  11. Hi Lou!
    Are these planet types that the sun spit out ready to go and support life or do they have to develop over billions of years?