NASA physicists tangle with a curious case of inky-black eruptions on the Sun.
At times, the StormWatch 7 blog is at awe at the stellar quality of NASA’s science writers. Here is one of those instances. The space agency recently posted hi-res footage from the Solar Dynamics Observatory of a curious solar eruption on June 7, previously covered here. Then, physicist/quote-generator Alex Young said, “It looked like somebody had just kicked a giant clod of dirt up into the air and then it fell back down.” (Follow the jump for the video.)
Young is back again to comment on these new views of the eruption, which was unusual for the huge amount of cool (only 20,000 K), dark plasma it blew into space. "We'd never seen anything like it," he says. "Half of the sun appeared to be blowing itself to bits."
The story continues:
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 cool 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.
Bombs, missiles, spraying streamers – I don’t know whether to send the post’s author, Dr. Tony Phillips, a fan note or duck for cover. Read more about this dark explosion and download the huge-but-worth-it videos over at NASA.