Totality — that brief period during a solar eclipse when the Moon is completely centered in front of the Sun’s disk — is a truly amazing sight, so much so that many people who have seen it once (a privileged group that doesn’t include me, sadly!) will travel across the globe in an effort witness it again and again.
During solar eclipse totality the sky not only becomes dark, dropping the temperature and sometimes even allowing stars to be seen, but also the Sun’s outer atmosphere is revealed around the silhouette of the Moon for a few short moments. Unfortunately this is not easily captured on camera because of the rapidly changing lighting situations, and when it is it pales in comparison to the real thing (or so I hear.)
The video above, taken during the November 14 eclipse from Queensland, shows the moments of totality pretty nicely although the streamer effect can’t really be made out. Still, we get a good idea of how the light changes and we can see another effect called “Baily’s Beads”, where sunlight peeks through some of the relief of the Moon’s terrain along its outer limb. Also the “diamond ring” effect can be seen as the Sun is uncovered.
Enjoy, and thanks to YouTube user solareclipse eclipsevidgvale for the upload!
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!
This animation, made from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows active region 1416 as it rotated into view over the past week, doubling in size as it approached the center of the Sun’s disk.
According to SpaceWeather.com’s Dr. Tony Phillips, AR1416 is magnetically charged in such a way as to be ready to release an M-class flare at any time. If this happens over the next couple of days, it will be aimed directly at Earth…
Any lapse in solar activity we may have seen during this period of “solar maximum” came to an end this weekend with some very energetic flares and CMEs, including the one seen above: an M8.7-class flare spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at 3:49 UT this morning.
This comes just 4 days after a strong CME sent a cloud of charged solar particles Earthward on Jan. 19, which impacted our magnetosphere on the afternoon of the 22nd, causing brilliant displays of aurorae around the northern latitudes. (See a gallery of aurora photos on Universe Today.)
Today’s flare has the potential of causing the largest solar storm experienced on Earth since 2005… in addition to more aurorae in the coming nights, some electromagnetic interference may occur.
While many in the U.S. will be recovering from Thanksgiving day meals and looking for ways to stretch their holiday shopping dollars at (hopefully local) retailers’ “Black Friday” sales, the face of the Sun will grow dark as the Moon casts its shadow over the Earth. But it won’t be visible to American shoppers – or very many people at all, actually… this eclipse will be staying in the southern skies above Antarctica!
Another fantastic image by Alan Friedman, this shows the massive sunspot region AR 1339 as it appeared on November 5, 2011 while in the process of rotating into view – and aim! – of Earth.
Estimated at about 17 times the width of Earth, AR 1339 contains some gigantic sunspots capable of producing high-powered solar flares. Already it has released a solar flare reaching X1.9 at 20:27 UTC on Nov. 3.
Should it keep up this level of activity we may be seeing more extreme aurorae in the coming week or two as was witnessed in October!
Image © Alan Friedman. All rights reserved.