Mostly Sunny

Photo courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

If you’re not a fan of the sub-zero temperatures the upcoming season bestows upon us, perhaps reading this NASA report about a giant eruption on the sun will warm you up. In August, an entire hemisphere of the sun exploded—NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory along with the STEREO spacecraft recorded the eruption in unbelievable detail. So what does it all mean? Well before this eruption, explosions on the sun’s surface were believed to be isolated incidents, independent of one another. But now scientists think all solar activity is interconnected. One solar physicist came to this staggering conclusion: “To predict eruptions…we have to know the surface magnetic field of practically the entire sun.” The surface area of the entire sun? Oh, about 2.3 trillion square miles. And the magnetic field is unbelievably complex, varies in strength across the sun’s surface, and extends far out into space. We have a feeling the collected thought bubble over all solar physicists’ heads right now reads ‘oy.’

Allison Nonko


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