Sun & Its CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections)


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Some of you asked me for the transcript of the video and commented on the cool images of the Sun and its CMEs, so here is more on the subject matter! Transcript of our video on Feb. 21, 2013 and more fantastic images of the Sun and its CMEs (coronal mass ejections).

Transcript of the video:  The sun, it has shed light on our homes for over four billion years. It will continue to do so for another four. It is massive almost beyond comprehension, constant yet ever changing. Born from the swirling cloud of dust and gas, it is a giant fusion engine that drives the solar system. It seams and broils like a living thing. Loops of plasma rise up, so large that would dwarf earth. Explosion flash from its surface. And yet the sun would also give its warmth and life and beauty….

Coronal mass ejections (or CMEs) are huge clouds of plasma and magnetic fields occasionally thrown off by the sun.

Sun’s CMEs (of plasma & magnetic fields) burst & throw off by the Sun

Scientists study them because the massive burst  pose a threat to  space age technology, and even power grids on the ground. Within each CME lies a kernel, known as the flux rope, tightly wound groups of  magnetic lines that can contain and transport solar material. Astronomers have seen them as CMEs burst off of the sun.

Flux Ropes & CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections) of the Sun (collaboration of NASA & Sun Is The Future)

But they have been next to  impossible to detect on the sun itself. New research using NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has now shown that they can be seen in just one of its cameras which shows the very hottest material on the sun. By watching a flux rope form and ejects as a CME, the research has brought some closure to one long standing mysteries, whether a rope is formed before or during a CME eruption. It’s impossible to actually see the flux ropes or any of the sun’s powerful magnetic fields involved with CMEs and flares because these fields are invisible.

Sun’s CME, Flux Ropes, and Internal Magnetic Fields (NASA)

But scientists can map them by observing plasma trapped by these fields, which shows up as thin lines under extreme ultraviolet light. Since earth’s atmosphere naturally filters these UV light, scientists must observe them using telescope in space, such as NASA’s SDO. So there’s been relatively few detailed observations of CMEs, particularly at higher temperatures. SDO images the sun at high image and time resolution. It is also the first satellite to consistently observe light with a wavelength of 131 A (angstroms),

Sun’s CME Flux Ropes viewed in 131 A (angstrom)

which highlights plasma at temperatures  around 10,000,000 degrees. This wavelength is usually reserved for studying solar flares. But what NASA and Naval Research Laboratory scientists  found is that the flux ropes associated with CMEs could only be seen at this temperature. On July 19, 2012, a CME erupted from the visible edge or limb of the sun. Because it was on the limb, the flux ropes were in profile and  particularly visible. Even more important, the flux ropes appeared about 7 hours earlier in the same location. The ropes were visible  as a line  of figure 8’s that looked exactly the way as theorists predicted  they would.

Sun’s CME Flux Ropes viewed in 171 A (angstrom) (NASA)

Sun’s CME Flux Ropes in Figure 8 (NASA)

This is the first direct evidence that flux ropes formed well before the coronal mass ejection. Footage of the CMEs from the SOHO spacecraft confirms the presence of the flux ropes. By adding  footage from the stereo A spacecraft which is viewing the sun from an entirely different angle, the researchers were able to create a three dimensional picture  of the flux ropes. For the most part, they followed the classic figure 8 pattern previously observed and predicted by solar models. But some of these ropes also had feet which extended farther away than scientists had expected. This deviation from the model is interesting and requires further studies. Besides show and proof of early flux rope formation, the study also paves the way for future flux ropes and CME research by literally finding a new light  to observe them in. The possibility of using flux rope formations as early warning system for CMEs means this line of research can have some very practical and far reaching applications and it could also help to wrap up some of the long standing mysteries of the sun.

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~have a bright and sunny day~
gathered, edited, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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