Everyone expected the comet Lovejoy to die a fiery death when it came face to face with the sun yesterday.
Boy, were they wrong.
Breaking News! Lovejoy lives! The comet Lovejoy has survived it’s journey around the sun to reemerge on the other side.
That’s the tweet from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) that shocked us all.
There seemed to be no chance of survival for the icy comet, which was discovered by Terry Lovejoy in late November. The sun can reach temperatures of 2 million degrees F. How could Lovejoy survive?
Here’s the video:
The comet wasn’t expected to crash into the sun. Lovejoy was expected to skim its surface. “These comets are Sungrazing not sun crashing, so the comet followed the orbit around the back side to come out the other side,” the SDO tweeted last night.
However, that still doesn’t explain how the comet didn’t vaporize as it approached the scorching sun. Could its size have anything to do with it? Lovejoy is as wide as two football fields, according to NASA, much larger than other sungrazer comets. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Check out this play by play on a sungrazer site. Scroll to the bottom: “I don’t know where to begin. I simply don’t know. What an extraordinary 24hrs! I suppose the first thing to say is this: I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And I have never been so happy to be wrong”
More updates to come.
From Discovery News:
There’s a storm brewing on the sun’s surface and it could unleash its magnetic fury on Earth within the next five days.
That ominous warning comes from solar scientists at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center who are tracking a huge group of sunspots that are slowly rotating to face our planet. As imaged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in Friday, this is the largest group of sunspots seen on the sun since 2005. The largest sunspot is 17-times the width of the Earth.
Active region 1339 has been crackling with flare activity — for now blasting the majority of its energy away from us — but on Thursday, it showed solar astronomers what it’s capable of; erupting with the most powerful type of flare.
I wonder what these storms will bring. More auroras in unusual places? How about satellite interruption, or even worse, loss of power? Maybe nothing. Only time will tell.
If you happen to see auroras this week, take pictures and send one to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll post your pictures here on Space Oddities.
Happy Birthday, STEREO!
Tomorrow, Oct. 26, is the fifth anniversary of the launch of NASA’s STEREO mission, which has helped scientists understand the structure and evolution of solar storms as they blast from the Sun and move out through space.
In honor of the milestone, NASA will be posting video of STEREO’s discoveries and observations on one of its YouTube pages. Here’s a pretty amazing video taken in 2007. It shows a solar eclipse, a transit of the Moon across the face of the Sun.
We’re headed for a bit of a storm this weekend. The sun has been pretty active the past couple of days and one region in particular has been releasing Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), violent and sudden releases of gas and magnetic fields.
Take a look at this video.
It shows past solar flare and CME eruptions on the sun’s surface:
That energy storm is expected to reach Earth tomorrow, Sept. 11, and/or Monday, Sept. 12, scientists say.
NASA computer models suggest that the latest CME may give a glancing blow to Earth on the morning of September 11, and might create some aurora.
So “glancing blow” equals auroras. Let’s hope it’s just auroras. NASA says that the most recent flare – the fourth in the past week – was considered “moderate.” Additional information is not available.
Pretty sure NASA is utilizing its ability to predict where these solar storms are headed. Read more about that in an earlier Space Oddities post.
However, if a fairly large CME was headed toward Earth, would NASA let us know the full extent of the situation? A large CME could affect our satellites and power grids. Some believe a massive one could send us back into the Stone Age. Scary.
Browsing some solar flare video, I stumbled upon a Youtube video that suggests a correlation between CMEs and earthquakes on Earth. I ignored it, but then I realized that there had been a 6.7-magnitude earthquake yesterday in Vancover Island, Canada. It is a northern region.
This weekend should be the perfect time to test out that CME theory. We’ll see what happens.
In 2013, the sun’s solar activity will reach a peak and it could lead to some disruptions here on Earth. Those disturbances range from auroras, to radiation storms and, in extreme cases, massive blackouts.
But now scientists feel they’ll be a bit more prepared. Yesterday, NASA announced that it can predict how and when solar activity will effect Earth.
Why is this important? Well, here’s some background.
The sun has a fairly regular cycle. About every 11 years, the sun goes through a cycle of low and high activity. During a low phase, or solar minimum, there aren’t that many sun spots visible on the sun’s surface. During a high phase, or solar maximum, there can be hundreds of visible sun spots. Take a look at the graph below. It shows an 11-year cycle beginning in 1996. You can see how how the activity on the sun’s surface intensifies around 2001.
During times of high activity, the sun suddenly – and quite violently – releases gas and magnetic fields called CMEs, or coronal mass ejections.
According to a release on NASA’s Web site,
CMEs are large clouds of charged particles that are ejected from the sun over the course of several hours and can carry up to ten billion tons of plasma. They expand away from the sun at speeds as high as a million miles an hour. A CME can make the 93-million-mile journey to Earth in just two to four days.
A large CME could power the United States for a million years, according to NASA. While that sounds pretty cool, we can’t really harness that power. Well, not yet. A large CME could disrupt power grids, pipelines, and satellites. With the ability to predict solar weather, we on Earth can be a bit more prepared if a large CME were heading our way.
Want more information about solar flares and CME’s? Check out this video: