This month’s New Moon brought a total solar eclipse to parts of planet Earth on November 13 (UT). Most of the total eclipse track fell across the southern Pacific, but the Moon’s dark umbral shadow began its journey in northern Australia on Wednesday morning, local time.
On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.
Huge loops of magnetic particles leapt out of the sun on arcing magnetic field lines, August 14-15, 2012. The Solar Dynamics Observatory caught this solar activity in the AIA 171 wavelength (but colorized red). An active region at left shows its own loops, in addition to streams of plasma jumping back and forth. Earth could easily fit inside any of these loops.
Yes, but it is quite different than a cloud hovering over the Earth. The long light feature on the left of the above color-inverted image is actually a solar filament and is composed of mostly charged hydrogen gas held aloft by the Sun’s looping magnetic field./small>
By contrast, clouds over the Earth are usually much cooler, composed mostly of tiny water droplets, and are held aloft by upward air motions because they are weigh so little. The above filament was captured on the Sun about two weeks ago near the active solar region AR 1535 visible on the right with dark sunspots./small>
Filaments typically last for a few days to a week, but a long filament like this might hover over the Sun’s surface for a month or more. Some filaments trigger large Hyder flares if they suddenly collapse back onto the Sun.
This figure shows an actual image of a sunset on Earth compared to artistic representations for the best candidates of potential habitable worlds so far. The image corrects for the size, colors, and brightness of the star and sky as seen from an Earth-like world located in the orbits of these worlds. The size of and colors of the star of Kepler-22 b look similar to Earth because it orbits a Sun-like star. The sunsets of Gliese 667Cc and 581d look much redder because they orbit a red dwarf star, with the sky of Gliese 581d much darker due to its greater distance. The star of HD 85512b is the brightest of all cases although the star of Gliese 667Cc is the biggest. CREDIT: PHL @ UPR Arecibo.
Watch as this NASA animation shows the sun blasting out a giant explosion of magnetic energy called a coronal mass ejection and the Earth being shielded from this by its powerful magnetic field.
The sun also continuously showers the Earth with light and radiation energy. Much of this solar energy is deflected by the Earth’s atmosphere or reflected back into space by clouds, ice and snow. What gets through becomes the energy that drives the Earth system, powering a remarkable planetary engine — the climate.