Another Flare

quad-flareDuring a December, 2013, solar flare, three satellites watched a current sheet form. This animation shows four views of the flare from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, and JAXA’s Hinode. The current sheet is a long, thin structure, especially visible in the views on the left. Those two animations depict light emitted by material with higher temperatures, so they better show the extremely hot current sheet.

A current sheet is a very fast, very flat flow of electrically-charged material, extremely thin compared to its length and width. Current sheets form when two oppositely-aligned magnetic fields come in close contact, creating very high magnetic force.

Image Credits: NASA / JAXA

The Comet

panstarrs_mar13_cmeV0 Naked-eye Comet PanSTARRS continues to rise in northern hemisphere skies. I haven’t had clear skies to see the comet yet, but many have been forunate to see it with a young crescent Moon near sunset. This remarkable picture from last Tuesday shows the comet with the Earth in the background as seen from the STEREO Behind spacecraft. That spacecraft is nearly opposite the Sun trailing the Earth in its orbit. The Sun just off the left side of the image. The blob on the left is a huge enormous coronal mass ejection (CME) erupting from the Sun. Of course, the Sun’s CME, comet, and the Earth are all at different distances from the spacecraft—with the comet nearest. The image was processed from two consecutive frames from the spacecraft’s SECCHI Heliospheric Imager, causing the strong shadowing effect for objects that moved from one frame to the next. Objects that were too bright created the sharp vertical lines. Note the complicated feather-like structures in Comet PanSTARRS’s dust tail.

Image Credit: NASA