What's up with: The Sun


This is the Sun, as photographed October 20th by Alan Friedman.

See those little plumes, rising like steam off the top and sides? That is not steam, says astronomy blogger Phil Plait. Instead, it's ...

the gas that follows magnetic loops piercing the Sun's surface. When we see them against the Sun's surface they're called filaments, and when they arc against the background sky on the edge of the Sun's disk they're called prominences.

They look so delicate, probably because they make the Sun look fuzzy, like a comfy blanket... but have no doubts on the fury and scale of what you're seeing here. See that little bright spot on the plume on the left, just above the Sun's edge? That spot is the same size as the Earth. Our planet is about 13,000 km (8000 miles) in diameter, so that one minor prominence is roughly 50,000 km high. That's 30,000 miles. And it's positively dwarfed by the Sun itself. A million Earths could fit inside the Sun.

It's neat—if somewhat ego-deflating. And there's more, read the rest at Bad Astronomy.


  1. OMG! That’s an unlicensed nuclear fusion reactor! Someone call the NRC and get that thing into compliance, and under regulation!

    1. Nice TMBG ref!

      To dwarf us even more. If you made the sun in that picture about 8 times larger. That spec that they call the same size as the earth, would be the same size as our sun in comparison to Antares. Even Antares is dwarfed by VY Canis Majoris which has a radius about 2.1-2.6 times larger. If you were to take VY Canis Majoris and put it in our own solar system, the edge of it would lay somewhere between Saturn and Uranus. Meaning we would be much closer to the center it then the edge (it would take us around 17x longer to get to the edge then it would to get to the center)

      1. Size counts, but the variations in stellar brightness are wonderful to contemplate too: some stars are many thousands of times brighter than our sun.

  2. Interesting that the article mentions the optical illusion that the sun’s disk in the image is shrinking when you move your gaze over it. I was getting the same effect with the picture at the bottom of the screen while I was reading the entry above it. Weird.

  3. See those little plumes, rising like steam off the top and sides? That is not steam, says astronomy blogger Phil Plait.

    Anyone who believes it’s steam would probably believe you if you told them the Sun really is Apollo’s chariot.

    1. Oh but it is!

      And those plumes are the result of Apollo and his minions relaxing after a hard aeon of making mischief.

    1. I think the phrase you’re looking for is ‘convection cell’ :)

      Great photo. I love images of the Sun, it’s just so mind-bendingly big and fierce.

  4. looks like one of those greyscale photos of a living cell, makes you wonder whether we’re part of a larger organism

    1. Makes me aware I’m part of a larger organism, but not in the sense that humans mean that word in the usual sense, not … biologically.

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