The Sun is Still a Mass of Incandescent Gas
February 9, 2011 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Actually it's a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma.
posted by togdon at 7:24 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every time I see something like this it makes me so sad that I will never get to travel to another planet or voyage amongst the stars.

Then I go home and play Star Control 2.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:25 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I saw the title, I was getting ready to cross my eyes and watch the sun pop out of my screen. Damn. This is still cool though.
posted by reformedjerk at 7:35 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

They're just setting you up to pay through the nose for the mono box set a few decades later.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:59 AM on February 9, 2011

Don't look directly at it!
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:08 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So once when I was six I did.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:16 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was expecting stereoscopic images.
posted by JJ86 at 9:10 AM on February 9, 2011

NASA has released the first STEREO images of the entire sun.

Shit, that's nothin' man, my van has got quadro-fuckin'-phonics (not to mention wall-to-wall shag and a bitchin' airbrush of a wizard)!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2011

I was expecting stereoscopic images.

Yeah, STEREO is an acronym. The descriptive "stereo," in sound and images, is rooted in "solid, as if carved from stone." It was not originally meant to denote specifically two source components. The components are epected to triangulate a volume in space. These, from opposite sides, have no overlapping data to triangulate on, so not really "stereo" as normally understood.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:38 AM on February 9, 2011

StickyCarpet- thanks for making the word "stereotype" make much more sense to me!
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2011

It's like it's right in my face.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:19 PM on February 9, 2011

I prefer the Sun in 5.1 Dolby.
posted by Splunge at 1:10 PM on February 9, 2011

Sweet! I don't follow cosmology all that closely, but I've been reading a lot about the recent developments in heliophysics and it is super-interesting. I had no idea there were Space Weather Forecasters (which would make an excellent before-and-after on Wheel of Fortune). We're in a pretty special space-time right now, and it seems like we're going to be able to take good advantage of it. From what I understand, the current solar minimum is giving us a pretty clear view of things, our solar system is passing through some unique ionized spaces, and we've got a lot of instruments watching what's happening.

STEREO, which is now in place to image >95% of the sun simultaneously.
The Voyager Spacecraft (surprisingly still running) are reaching the edge of the heliosphere.
IBEX (The Interstellar Boundary Explorer, an 'Impressionist' Spacecraft) is imaging the interaction between the heliosphere and the interstellar clouds outside it.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory is studying the magnetic fields, plasma, irradiance, and the effects of solar activity on the earth.
There's also the GOES satellites, which study the space conditions near earth and give us an idea of how the events on the sun affect the space weather near us.

One of the coolest things to me is how available the data is - I can just load up near-real-time images of almost the entire sun, which is simply stellar (yes, I did). So what have we learned? Welll....

IBEX, in conjunction with a re-purposing of the Cassini spacecraft, has told us "our heliosphere more closely resembles a bubble - or a rat - being eaten by a boa constrictor: as the solar system passes through the "belly" of the snake, the ribs, which mimic the local interstellar magnetic field, expand and contract as the rat passes."

IBEX also found a mysterious ribbon at the edge of our solar system, complete with a 'knot' which has since 'untied', telling us "the interaction of the Sun with the interstellar medium is far more dynamic and variable than anyone envisioned". There was some speculation that this was due to some sort of reflection, but now that there's another set of data showing significant changes, I think that's in question.

Interstellar medium? In our case, that would be the "Local Cloud" and "Local Bubble", previously assumed to meet a few light years away from us, but which might be a thousand-fold closer. "This might mean that the Solar System could enter the million-degree Local Bubble cloud as early as the next century. “Nothing unusual, the Sun frequently traverses various clouds of interstellar gas during its galactic journey”"

SDO and STEREO combined their powers to give us this awesome view of a never-before-seen 'global eruption' of an entire hemisphere of the sun.

If that's not enough to BLOW THE TOP OFF YOUR FUCKING HEAD, Cluster and THEMIS have encountered Flux Transfer Events, proving that "A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page. [...] On the dayside of Earth (the side closest to the sun), Earth's magnetic field presses against the sun's magnetic field. Approximately every eight minutes, the two fields briefly merge or "reconnect," forming a portal through which particles can flow. The portal takes the form of a magnetic cylinder about as wide as Earth." WTF? YES.
posted by nTeleKy at 3:19 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am surprised that this thread hasn't had any mention of SOHO/LASCO... until now.
posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief at 9:19 PM on February 9, 2011

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