Hinode Discovers the Sun’s Hidden Sparkle

Blinking spots of intense light are being observed all over the lower atmosphere of the Sun. Not just in the active regions, but in polar regions, quiet regions, sunspots, coronal holes and loops. These small explosions fire elegant jets of hot solar matter into space, generating X-rays as they go. Although X-ray jets are known … Continue reading “Hinode Discovers the Sun’s Hidden Sparkle”

Can Spicules Explain the Mysteries of Coronal Heating?

There’s one recurring question I’ve been asking for nearly a decade: Why is the Sun’s corona (its atmosphere) so hot? When asking this out loud I inevitably get the sarcastic “um, because the Sun is… hot?” reply. Yes, the Sun is hot, really hot, but solar physicists have spent the last half-century trying to understand … Continue reading “Can Spicules Explain the Mysteries of Coronal Heating?”

“Knowing” How Solar Flares Don’t Work

  My wife turned to me as the credits rolled and asked, “Can you sue a production company for inaccurate science in a movie?” “Hmmm… good point!” I said. “Unfortunately, though, I think it’s just called ‘being creative.’” But that got me thinking. Knowing not very much We’d just sat through the Nicholas Cage disaster … Continue reading ““Knowing” How Solar Flares Don’t Work”

Would You Like a Slice of Moon with that Solar Observation?

On July 22nd, Asia witnessed the longest solar eclipse of the century. I saw the pictures, it looked like fun. I’ve only seen a partial solar eclipse in the past, so when I heard about last week’s eclipse lasting nearly 7 minutes, I was more than a little envious. So another eclipse, another momentous event … Continue reading “Would You Like a Slice of Moon with that Solar Observation?”

An Explanation For Solar Sigmoids

Sigmoids in the solar corona have been studied for many years, but little explanation of their formation or why they are often the seed of powerful solar flares have been forthcoming. Using high-resolution X-ray images from the Japanese-led solar mission Hinode (originally Solar-B), solar physicists have known that these very hot S-shaped structures are composed … Continue reading “An Explanation For Solar Sigmoids”

What Type of Star is Our Sun?

Our Sun is often called an “average” or “unremarkable” star. This is a little unfair, after all this unremarkable specimen is responsible for generating all the energy for all the planets in the Solar System and it has nurtured life on Earth for the past four billion years. We are also very lucky in that … Continue reading “What Type of Star is Our Sun?”

Carnival of Space Week 59 @Green Gabbro

We’re on week 59 of the Carnival and we have a great edition this week over with Maria Brumm at Green Gabbro. From black holes that go “bweep!” to the end of the Universe, we have everything! I’ve entered my solar article about the detection of axions, a possible component of dark matter. Go to … Continue reading “Carnival of Space Week 59 @Green Gabbro”

Is the Sun a Dark Matter Factory?

The hypothetical axion is a particle that might help scientists work out where the bulk of dark matter may be held in the Universe. So far, there has been much talk about the search for another type of hypothetical particle, the weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP), and little attention has been paid to the lowly … Continue reading “Is the Sun a Dark Matter Factory?”

The Chaotic Nature of Magnetic Reconnection and Coronal Dynamics

The solar corona is a strange place. For the last few decades solar physicists have been trying to understand why it is so hot. Yes, it’s the Sun, and yes, it’s hot, but the corona is too hot. There are many possible solutions to the “coronal heating phenomenon”, but physicists are generally in agreement that … Continue reading “The Chaotic Nature of Magnetic Reconnection and Coronal Dynamics”