Solar splashdown

Jun 20, 2013
This photograph shows our sun on June 7, 2011, at the time of an eruption. The source of the eruption glows brightly at lower right. Material blasted outward only to fall back onto the sun's surface. By studying this process, astronomers gained new insights into how young stars grow via stellar accretion. This photo was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Red shows light at a wavelength of 304 Angstroms, green is 171 Angstroms, and blue is 335 Angstroms. Credit: NASA / SDO / P. Testa (CfA)

(Phys.org) —On June 7, 2011, our Sun erupted, blasting tons of hot plasma into space. Some of that plasma splashed back down onto the Sun's surface, sparking bright flashes of ultraviolet light. This dramatic event may provide new insights into how young stars grow by sucking up nearby gas.

The eruption and subsequent splashdown were observed in spectacular detail by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. This spacecraft watches the Sun 24 hours a day, providing images with better-than-HD resolution. Its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument was designed and developed by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

"We're getting beautiful observations of the Sun. And we get such and high cadence that we can see things that weren't obvious before," says CfA astronomer Paola Testa.

Movies of the June 7th eruption show dark filaments of gas blasting outward from the Sun's lower right. Although the appears dark against the Sun's bright surface, it actually glows at a temperature of about 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit. When the blobs of plasma hit the Sun's surface again, they heat up by a factor of 100 to a temperature of almost 2 million degrees F. As a result, those spots brighten in the ultraviolet by a factor of 2 – 5 over just a few minutes.

This photograph from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory catches the beginning of the eruption that took place on June 7, 2011. It shows light at a wavelength of 304 Angstroms (30.4 nm). A bright flare is visible at lower right, as well as hot, glowing plasma blasting outward. Credit: NASA / SDO / P. Testa (CfA)

The tremendous occurs because the in falling blobs are traveling at high speeds, up to 900,000 miles per hour (400 km/sec). Those speeds are similar to the speeds reached by material falling onto young stars as they grow via accretion. Therefore, observations of this provide an "up close" view of what happens on distant stars.

This photograph from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory catches the beginning of the eruption that took place on June 7, 2011. At lower right, dark filaments of solar plasma arc away from the sun. The plasma lofted off, then rained back down to create "hot spots" that glowed in ultraviolet light. This representative-color image shows light at a wavelength of 171 Angstroms (17.1 nm). Credit: NASA / SDO / P. Testa (CfA)

"We often study young stars to learn about our Sun when it was an 'infant.' Now we're doing the reverse and studying our Sun to better understand ," notes Testa.

These new observations, combined with computer modeling, have helped resolve a decade-long argument over how to measure the rates of growing stars. Astronomers calculate how fast a young star is gathering material by observing its brightness at various wavelengths of light, and how that brightness changes over time. However, they got higher estimates from optical and ultraviolet light than from X-rays.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This time-lapse movie shows a solar eruption that happened on June 7, 2011. At lower right, material blasts outward from the sun and then splashes down again, creating dramatic flashes of light when infalling blobs hit the solar surface. The images within this movie show light at a wavelength of 171 Angstroms, taken with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA / SDO / P. Testa (CfA)

The team discovered that the ultraviolet flashes they observed came from the in falling material itself, not the surrounding solar atmosphere. If the same is true for distant, young stars, then by analyzing the ultraviolet light they emit, we can learn about the material they are accreting.

"By seeing the dark spots on the Sun, we can learn about how accrete material and grow." explains Testa.

Explore further: Image: NGC 6872 in the constellation of Pavo

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User comments : 13

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thatsitalright
3 / 5 (6) Jun 20, 2013
Sorry but I have to be "that guy".

18,000 F means nothing to me. If only there was a standard metric to measure the world around us, one that was universally adopted.

If there was such a thing, I would hope that any mainstream science news place, would use it. Ah, but I speak of such distant possibilities.
that_other_guy
not rated yet Jun 20, 2013
Good news everyone, the latest sunspot measured 5,700 Courics!
Fisty_McBeefpunch
1 / 5 (7) Jun 21, 2013
This is an article directed at the public. Obviously for those in the US where F is common. But worry not my friend, there is an answer: C= (F-32) x 5/9. Or 5/9 x (F-32) + 273 if you want it in Kelvin.

Ok, I'm being a smart ass, and I agree with you. I really don't understand why I use one measurement at home, but another in a class room or lab.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2013
This is an article directed at the public. Obviously for those in the US where F is common. But worry not my friend, there is an answer: C= (F-32) x 5/9. Or 5/9 x (F-32) + 273 if you want it in Kelvin.

Ok, I'm being a smart ass, and I agree with you. I really don't understand why I use one measurement at home, but another in a class room or lab.


If this is a "being a smart ass" competition, I'm going to point out that there is little benefit in subtracting 32 from a figure which is at best rounded to the nearest 1000 degrees.

(5/9) * 18k F ~ 10k C

However, I wouldn't surprised to see some publications say this is "9982C or 10255K" :-(
GSwift7
3 / 5 (9) Jun 21, 2013
18,000 F means nothing to me


What'll really mess with your head is that the concept of 'temperature' in this kind of environment is a bit misleading in general. The densitsty is still so low that if you could somehow float there in a shady spot (sheltered from everything except the wind) it wouldn't be too bad. This is similar to the Earth's ionosphere, where the 'temperature' of the molecules is between 1200 and 1500 kelvin, but you would freeze there at night without a space suit (ignoring the explosive depresurization thing, of course).

They could just as easily talk about the average speed of the molecules or their frequency of vibration, as opposed to 'temperature'. They simply use temperature as a simplification in these cases. You couldn't measure this temperature with any thermometer locally situated.

I think I win the smart-ass contest, as such.
no fate
3 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2013
Sorry Gs7. That was supposed to be a 5. Alot of people dont actually understand the environment were discussing here. ...nice.
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Jun 23, 2013
That's okay, I don't care about the ratings. I only look at the ratings on my comment history page so that I can tell if anyone might be commenting on something I said. Whether it's a 1 or 5 doesn't matter to me. I get 5's for comments which I later realize were wrong, and I get 1's for comments which other people just don't understand.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (3) Jun 23, 2013
That's okay, I don't care about the ratings. I only look at the ratings on my comment history page so that I can tell if anyone might be commenting on something I said. Whether it's a 1 or 5 doesn't matter to me. I get 5's for comments which I later realize were wrong, and I get 1's for comments which other people just don't understand.


It's not just the ratings, I got a formal "pseudo-science" warning from a moderator for saying that the electric and magnetic field vectors in an EM wave were orthogonal. You can't get much more conventional than that!
GSwift7
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 24, 2013
for saying that the electric and magnetic field vectors in an EM wave were orthogonal.


Well, you gotta admit that does sound made-up. lol

I could be wrong about this, but I believe this site is nothing more than a news amalgamation site. It is probably operated in Asia, by a staff that is majority non-english speaking, or English as a second language at best. There's no telling what their translation of your comment was.

That's a big trend in media these days. There are many small town newspapers who buy filler content from those kinds of places. The Chicago Tribune has started printing local papers customized for all the little suburbs around Chicago. The Asian content producers look up high school sports scores, weather, elections, etc. and put it in a basic format. Then the Tribune people just do minor editing.

I think that's what this site is. Moderation is minimal at best.
jsdarkdestruction
2 / 5 (4) Jun 24, 2013
that disgusts me, they even outsource news reporting now?
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Jun 25, 2013
Gotta take the good with the bad.

On the bright side, some of those small communities around Chicago have never had a local news paper before, and wouldn't have one if it weren't for the outsourcing.

Think of it as an assembly line for news. They've probably got one guy that does the school sports scores for 20 different papers, and another guy who does the police blotters, obituaries, etc. There's no benefit to having some minimum wage employee at the local office do all that, and if it allows a paper publisher to expand into new markets, then they hire more actual journalists to do the real stories.
jsdarkdestruction
1 / 5 (1) Jun 26, 2013
Thanks for the insights, I still cant see it that way though.
gwrede
1 / 5 (5) Jun 26, 2013
then they hire more actual journalists to do the real stories.
I wish!