The excited sun is smiling at us – six dazzling views

The sun must be having a good day. Could it be because it just ate a comet?

Via NASA’s Solar Dynamics Laboratory Web site, here’s a series of recent images unveiling the sun’s radiant face – at different wavelengths.

What are the dark splotches painting eyes and a mouth onto the sun’s simmering surface?  These are known as coronal holes. They are areas where very little radiation is emitted, but the main source of solar wind (charged particles released from the sun).

The brighter, surrounding areas are known as “hot active regions” which produce solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) – brief bursts of solar wind.

It turns out, the sun has been in an excited state in recent days.  It has unleashed several flares and CMEs.

In fact, it expelled a coronal mass ejection just as a sun-grazing comet was taking a death plunge towards its crackling surface.

Watch the video, courtesy SpaceWeather.com, below:

Comet dives into the sun as the sun unleashes a coronal mass ejection Monday. (SpaceWeather.com)
Comet dives into the sun as the sun unleashes a coronal mass ejection Monday. (SpaceWeather.com)

Watch carefully. You can see the comet entering the right bottom part of the image at around 22:00 (on 8/19).  The CME (the outward blast you see starting around 23:00) intercepts it at around 00:00 (the next day, 8/20)  Shortly thereafter, the comet disintegrates.

Here’s another video of the CME interception of the comet, but in slow motion, courtesy Tom Yulsman:

Related: Comet Lovejoy survives sweltering encounter with sun

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local

Heat Tracker

46
90-degree days year-to-date
Yearly Average
36
Record Most
67 (1980,2010)
Record Fewest
7 (1886,1905)
Last Year
24

At a Glance

Wed.

thunderstorms
75° /94°
Drop 20%

Thu.

partlycloudyday
75° /95°

Fri.

thunderstorms
76° /89°
Drop 40%

Sat.

partlycloudyday
69° /85°

Sun.

sunny_clear
67° /88°

Mon.

partlycloudyday
68° /92°
National Airport
Dulles
BWI

Right Now

D.C. Area Almanac

 
National
Dulles
BWI
Avg. High
 
Avg. Low
 
Rec. High
 
Rec. Low
 
Sunrise
 
Sunset
°F
 
 
°C
Next Story
Jack Williams · August 21, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.