The Sun is big. And comparatively, Earth is a tiny Lilliputian. We’ve all seen images comparing the size of Earth to the Sun, but here are two images from October 10, 2011 that really bring home the size-scale of features on the Sun when compared to the size of Earth. Amateur astronomer Ron Cottrell from Oro Valley, Arizona took these images of two different features on the the Sun yesterday, overlaying the size of the Earth for reference. Both are viewed in Hydrogen- Alpha light, and the first is a fiery-looking huge prominence from the northwest limb of the Sun. Yikes!
Below, see a comparison of Earth to a current sunspot:
This is sunspot 1312 which has a classic sunspot shape with a core a that’s larger than the Earth.
Ron used a 40mm Coronado telescope and a webcam to capture the images. He explains the colors of the Sun in Hydrogen-Alpha, and in particular why the prominence appears fiery red:
“The red color of the prominence is very close to the color collected in the image. The yellow disk is enhanced. I actually capture the disk image in black and white and add the color. I can choose any color. The final image is a composite of two separate images. Prominences are, in general, much fainter than the bright disk. Therefore, the prominence image is captured at a slower shutter speed, e.g. 1/25 sec, compared to the disk image captured at 1/100 sec. The two images are combined in PhotoShop.”
You can see more of Ron’s handiwork on his Flickr page.
And speaking of the Sun, activity on our closest star has been ramping up and last week a series of active regions were lined up one after the other across the upper half of the Sun. Interestingly, the Solar Dynamics Observatory was able to capture how these regions twisted and interacted with each other. The video shows activity from Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2011, as seen in extreme UV light. The magnetically intense active regions sported coils of arcing loops and numerous times these magnetic field lines above them can be seen connecting with the active region next door. Towards the end of the clip, a leading active region blasted out a coronal mass ejection, quickly succeeded by a blast from another active region. The disruption of the magnetic field from one likely triggered the second, a phenomenon that has been observed before by SDO.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.