Sunny Thoughts

The Sun rises in the morning sets at night, reliable and dependable. However, it’s a moody individual! At present it is in a quiescent mood being midway through its 11 year solar cycle. This period is known as the solar minimum. It doesn’t mean that it’s always quiet though as the picture above shows. Here you can see the surface of the Sun with a large prominence on its edge.

This excellent image was taken by Alien Worlds student Graham Hurley. He achieved this using a Coronado 40mm H-alpha telescope accompanied by a modified webcam. This then provided him with the raw information needed to refine the image in Adobe Photoshop. The H-alpha telescope he used is essential for imaging fine detail on the sun as it only allows light with a specific frequency (0.7 Angstrom) through the coated optics. So next time your out in the beautiful sunny weather spare a thought at what the Sun is actually doing. 



    April 9, 2007

    Perhaps its worth pointing out the size of the Sun?

    One can too easily get lost in the jargon of science, I think. You know, Angstroms and H-alphas. They mean very little to most people.

    Most, however, will be fascinated to learn that the Sun is a million miles across, and that if you sped towards it at 100mph, it would take you around 1 million years to get there!

    By the way, in the image above, the Earth would be a mere speck inside that loopy fiery thing that the tech-heads like to call a ‘prominence’.


    April 9, 2007

    The thing I find amazing is that our planet has the exact velocity and mass needed to stay this distance from the sun. If we keep shipping material off planet in the form of satelites and space stations, will it lighten the earth enough for it to gradually increase it’s distance from the sun?

    (Apologies if my understanding of orbits is not correct – I assume that a planets perpendicular velocity from the sun is enough to offset the gravitational mass attraction between it and the sun?)


    April 9, 2007

    Does the sun’s mass change as it continually produces energy which is dissipated? If it gradually lowers would that also reduce the gravitational attraction between it and earth?

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