Solar prominence: a good reminder of who and where we are

It’s so easy to get mixed up and lost in the political drama of the day that it’s sometimes good to be reminded that we’re not the only people in the world, or for that matter, the only things in the universe. I came across this picture courtesy of Astronomy Picture of the Day. Today’s entry shows a solar prominence, which I had thought of a solar flare. Here it is:

That is our Sun, with a solar prominence. It’s freaking huge. The Sun itself is over 109 times wider than,and 330,000 times the mass that of Earth. And we sure wouldn’t be here with out it! (Even though here in Wisconsin, we’d do okay, ya know. We’d manage. We’re used to it gettin’ cold, ya know.) And that solar prominence could easily fit an Earth or two inside of itself.

According to APOD:

The above prominence, captured by the Sun-orbiting SOHO satellite earlier this year during an early stage of its eruption, rapidly became one of the largest ever on record. Even as pictured, the prominence is huge — the Earth would easily fit inside. A solar prominence is a thin cloud of solar gas held just above the surface by the Sun’s magnetic field. A quiescent prominence typically lasts about a month, while an eruptive prominence like the one developing above may erupt within hours into a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), expelling hot gas into the Solar System. Although very hot, prominences typically appear dark when viewed against the Sun, since they are slightly cooler than the surface. As our Sun evolves toward Solar maximum over the next three years, more large eruptive prominences are expected.

Wow.

And now back to politics as usual.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.