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A Backyard View of a Solar Prominence

Hydrogen-alpha photo of the Sun by Alan Friedman

An enormous tree-shaped prominence spreads its “branches” tens of thousands of miles above the Sun’s photosphere in this image, a section of a photo acquired in hydrogen alpha (Ha) by Alan Friedman last week from his backyard in Buffalo, NY. Writes Alan on his blog, “gotta love a sunny day in November!”

Check out the full image — along with an idea of just how big this “tree” actually is — here.

A Solar “Danse Macabre”

Dark prominences swap material on the Sun on March 27-28, 2012. (NASA/SDO)

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a video on March 27 – 28 showing two large areas of “dark” plasma on the Sun’s limb, twisting and spiraling in our star’s complex magnetic field. The southern region bears an uncanny resemblance to three figures swaying to some spooky, unheard music… a real “danse macabre” on the Sun!

Watch the video here.

A Tall Tale of a Prominent Figure

An exceptionally tall prominence on the Sun. © Alan Freidman.

Taken on July 29, 2010, this hydrogen-alpha-light photo by Alan Friedman shows a delicate, wispy solar prominence stretching more than 200,000 miles from the Sun’s limb… nearly as far as the distance from Earth to the Moon!

This photo was taken with Alan’s backyard telescope from his location in Buffalo, NY. Many of his solar photos have been featured on prominent (no pun intended) astronomy and news websites. See more of Alan’s images on his blog here.

Credit: Alan Friedman. All rights reserved.

SDO: Year One

Can’t see the video below? Click here.

One year ago today, on April 21, 2010, NASA held a First Light press conference where the first images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory were presented to the public! Now here we are one year later and the images and video we have enjoyed these past 12 months are, in a word, breathtaking. SDO has given us an entirely new look at the Sun and changed the way we think about our parent star…not to mention filled our scientific coffers with literally tons of new data!

The wonderful folks over at SDO have compiled the video above highlighting some of the best images captured by the orbiting observatory…check it out!

Some additional info from NASA:

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Large prominence seen by SDO on April 11

April 21, 2011 marks the one-year anniversary of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) First Light press conference, where NASA revealed the first images taken by the spacecraft.

In the last year, the sun has gone from its quietest period in years to the activity marking the beginning of solar cycle 24. SDO has captured every moment with a level of detail never-before possible. The mission has returned unprecedented images of solar flares, eruptions of prominences, and the early stages of coronal mass ejections (CMEs). In this video are some of the most beautiful, interesting, and mesmerizing events seen by SDO during its first year.

In the order they appear in the video the events are:

1. Prominence Eruption from AIA in 304 Angstroms on March 30, 2010

2. Cusp Flow from AIA in 171 Angstroms on February 14, 2011

3. Prominence Eruption from AIA in 304 Angstroms on February 25, 2011

4. Cusp Flow from AIA in 304 Angstroms on February 14, 2011

5. Merging Sunspots from HMI in Continuum on October 24-28, 2010

6. Prominence Eruption and active region from AIA in 304 Angstroms on April 30, 2010

7. Solar activity and plasma loops from AIA in 171 Angstroms on March 4-8, 2011

8. Flowing plasma from AIA in 304 Angstroms on April 19, 2010

9. Active regions from HMI in Magnetogram on March 10, 2011

10. Filament eruption from AIA in 304 Angstroms on December 6, 2010

11. CME start from AIA in 211 Angstroms on March 8, 2011

12. X2 flare from AIA in 304 Angstroms on February 15, 2011

Be sure to vote on your favorite SDO clip! Voting goes from April 21 until May 5.

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Thanks SDO! Here’s to many more years of amazing images of our Sun! :)

Afternoon Delight

Large prominence seen by SDO on April 11

I spotted this on the SDO site late this afternoon…it shows an eruption of plasma from the Sun’s photosphere that stretches out many tens of thousands of miles…the Earth could easily fit many times over beneath the looping structure! This image is from about 5pm EDT (21:59 UT), and shows the eastern limb of the Sun, just north of its equator.

Prominences like this are caused by superheated solar material flowing along magnetic channels that arc up from deep within the Sun. When these channels break, the plasma contained within them is flung out into space.

Check out a video of the prominence in action here on my YouTube channel.

Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams. Edited by J. Major.

Detachable Prominence

Image of a detached prominence on the Sun. © Alan Friedman.

Here’s the latest image of the Sun from photographer Alan Friedman, showing incredible surface detail as well as the remnants of a detached prominence that had erupted from active region 1166 on March 3, 2011. This image was taken during a Winter Star Party event in West Summerland Key, Florida.

“A close-up look at the Florida sun, captured during the Winter Star Party, showing active region 1166 and a tremendous detached prominence. I had to use my body as a windscreen to block the 30 knot winds from buffeting my 90mm Ha solar telescope.”

– Alan Friedman

Alan’s fantastic solar images are taken with a specialized telescope that images the Sun in hydrogen-alpha light, providing a look at the intricate features of the Sun’s chromosphere…the layer just below the super-hot corona and covered with fast-moving fine filaments of plasma called spicules. His images have been featured on spaceweather.com as well as BadAstronomy.com, the Huffington Post,  several installments of Astronomy Picture of the Day…and, of course, here on Lights in the Dark! (And lots more places too.) You can see the previous solar image from Alan taken in October 2010 here.

Check out Alan’s astrophotography site AvertedImagination.com for more great images and art prints!

Image © Alan Friedman. All rights reserved.

A Transient Transit

SDO catches the Moon entering stage left

Almost forgotten today in all the excitement over the giant prominence seen by SDO, the Moon also had a small role to play over the weekend: its lunar transit of the Sun in front of SDO’s cameras! Although brief and not captured by all the AIA instruments, AIA 304 did manage to glimpse a peek at the leading edge of the Moon just before it crossed the face of the Sun. Meanwhile, the prominence/filament was winding up on the Sun’s opposite edge in preparation of its explosive snap just hours later. Thankfully SDO was there to witness all the action!

Keep up with the latest images of the Sun in hi-def on the SDO site here.

Image courtesy of SDO (NASA) and the AIA consortium.

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