Sunday, June 14, 2009

High-Resolution Image of the Sun’s Jets

Imagine a magnetically-bound tube of hot gas, 12,000-miles long and a hundred miles wide, moving at 30,000 miles per hour: That’s what you’re looking at in the picture above, in the highest-resolution image to date of solar phenomena known as spicules.

Tens of thousands of spicules are active at any given moment, created through a complex interaction of sound waves and magnetic fields, shooting upwards and outwards before falling back into the sun minutes later. They compose the chronosphere, an atmospheric layer that surrounds the sun and is as thick as the Earth’s diameter. Most of our own atmosphere is compressed into a layer about seven miles deep.

It’s sometimes easy — for me, anyways — to forget that the sun is 93million miles away, and that Earthly life exists through the coincidental good fortune of our planetary rock’s location, neither too far nor too close to that ball of gas. This photograph, taken by the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope, a good reminder.


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