Solar Shenanigans

Big doings on old Sol, it seems.

What we don’t know about the sun is a lot. I find this mildly disturbing, since we rely on the sun for our very survival. But at some point you just have to accept the fact that some most things are beyond our control.

In early February I was reminded of a blog post I wrote in 2013 entitled, There’s a Freakin’ HOLE in the Sun! It sprang to mind because the sun is acting all weird again. This time, however, social media (and, in fact, media in general) took this information and ran with it, whereas in 2013 it was a mere afterthought. I think that says more about the evolution of our sources of information than it says about the evolution of the sun.

But on February 2nd of this year, scientists observed something going on with the sun that they’d never seen before. It started fairly routinely, as a solar prominence. These happen all the time. It’s those loopy, jet-like bursts of plasma that shoot out into space from the sun’s surface, only to fall back again and subside. They almost look like a breaching whale, if both the whale and the water were on fire.

There was nothing special about this particular prominence. As a matter of fact, they seem to burst forth from the sun at this location, around 55 degrees latitude, every 11 years in the sun’s 22-year cycle. But this one decided to get creative. Part of the plasma broke free of the jet and got sucked up toward the sun’s pole, causing it to get caught up in a vortex, and then it completely circumnavigated the sun at about 60 degrees latitude.

It seems that the sun is experiencing some frightfully stormy weather, because when scientists measured how long it took for this plasma to circumnavigate, it was determined that it was traveling at the rate of 60 miles per second. Holy moly. You wouldn’t want to be crossing the street when that sucker blasted past.

I think this event is pretty cool in and of itself, but the media had to take it to a whole new level. The headlines were screaming that a piece of the sun broke off. Poppycock. It was plasma. Saying that the sun broke apart under these circumstances would be like saying a piece of Hawaii broke off when Mauna Loa erupted. Everybody calm down.

Scientists aren’t sure why this polar vortex happened, but we learn more about the sun every day. We do know enough about it to predict that it is approaching the solar maximum in its cycle, and that will most likely happen in the summer of 2025. During this time, the sun’s magnetic poles will switch places. Again, this is routine. It happens every 11 years.

But the sun has been unusually active during the last few years of this cycle. As in, it’s acting up way beyond all scientific expectations. Big doings on old Sol, it seems. So yeah, there’s that.

For current images of the sun, check out the Solar Dynamics Observatory website. And hold on to your sunglasses, dear reader. Who knows what surprises the sun has in store for us in the next couple of years.


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Author: The View from a Drawbridge

I have been a bridgetender since 2001, and gives me plenty of time to think and observe the world.

8 thoughts on “Solar Shenanigans”

  1. Welp, now I’ve got a whole ‘nother thing to worry about, thanks a lot! Haha, just kidding/not kidding – it really is a cool phenomena.

  2. As a heliophile and selenophile, I followed several daily solar and moon reports, so I’m comfortable with any unusual activities they get up to. It breaks up the monotony of predictable patterns and cycles. There’s a lot we don’t know about our own earth as well. We’re just beginning to understand our core which has stopped spinning and is slowly reversing direction. Could this explain my vertigo? 😵‍💫

      1. Not sure how scientifically legit the articles are on the ‘science alert’ site or how safe it is. As I was browsing, through the more bizzare articles, my computer got locked by hackers posing as Microsoft Windows defense and it took 4 hours, on the phone, between my internet provider and McAfee security to get it unlocked. I’m still resetting all passwords. McAfee is holding my case open for 3 days in case it occurs again. They didn’t get on my computer to check if the hackers left anything behind, so I’m on pins and needles.McAfee web advisor didn’t catch the threat and warn me like they’re supposed to. Be careful using that site.

      2. Can you delete the link from your post and my comment so no one else risks what I’m dealing with? Thanks.

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