Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Solar Activity 1, Hubble Activity 0

With the total lack of Solar activity the last couple of years you can imagine how excited I got when a couple of prominences popped out of the Sun's chromosphere the other day. I was able to capture the prominences with my Canon 40D attached directly to my Coronado PST. This little scope allows a narrow band of the light spectrum through, the Hydrogen- alpha emission which blocks out the blinding white light and lets the beautiful Solar chromosphere through where all the action happens. Prominences are powerful explosions on the Sun which shoot tons of Solar plasma into space, the prominences above and below are 10 Earth diameters high.

As I was taking pics one of the neighbours asked if I was taking pics of the Sun again. You'd think that a camera attached to my scope pointed at the Sun would be a good clue,... yes.... yes it would, that is if they could see it, you see to prevent the glare of the Sun from reaching my camera and preventing me from seeing the Sun in my camera's LCD monitor I have a bath towel swung over me and the scope, odd picture to say the least. You can see the image above on Sky and Telescope's web site, cool.

All this activity was happening just after NASA announced in a press release that the Solar wind was at it's 50 year low. Seems the pressure of the Solar wind has dropped 20% since the mid 1990's. The long term implications could be quite serious. The Solar wind inflates our protective Solar System Heliosphere. The Heliosphere is like a magnetic bubble surrounding and protecting the planets from deadly cosmic rays originating from outside our Solar System.

Less solar wind pressure, less bubble, less protection, which means more cosmic rays, which will have a detrimental effect on any kind of space travel, more satellite damage and on top of all that there are some scientists that believe there is a link between climate change and cosmic rays.

To keep track of our Heliosphere and to see how the decreasing Solar wind pressure affect it NASA is launching the IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft October 5th. The craft will keep track of our Heliosphere without actually having to travel to the edge of our Solar system to do it

Well there may not be a pot of gold at the end of the above rainbow, at least not for the Hubble. Hubble is down, one of it's vital pieces of equipment, the Control Unit/Science Data Formatter is broke, or at least one side of it, they are now trying to get the backup side B running. The Formatter stores and transmits all the science data from all the equipment on Hubble down to us on Earth, very serious problem. Needless to say the Shuttle mission to repair the Hubble will be on hold until NASA determines what their next move will be. If they do happen to get the Hubble up and running NASA will then have to make a decision whether or not to send another Control Unit up with the STS 125 crew for installation, I vote yes, what good is all the new fancy schmancy equipment if the backup unit dies.

I'll leave you now with a cool clip of some Solar prominences in action.


Swubird said...


Very good post. This solar wind problem seems serious. Is it something that could make life here on earth a lot worse in the short time? Or, are you talking decades before we notice any earthly changes?

You took some great shots of the sun. You always amaze me with the wide range of your skills and talents for astronomy. Most moon people stay clear of the planets. Most planet people stay clear of the deep space objects. And most deep space people definitely stay clear of the sun. You do it all. What a guy.

Happy stargazing.

Ruth said...

I agree, I am astonished by these sun photos. Incredibly beautiful, and I didn't know it could be done that way.

Sherer said...

Ah very interesting stuff Bob. I am always amazed by shots of the sun and how big it is. You have some amazing shots here. I don't think many realize just how talent you are. It takes me about an hour to even find a planet in my telescope with a good magnification.

Have you heard anything on the current economic outlook and how it pertains to spending in the area of space research????


Virtual Voyage said...

Enjoyed this, Bob - thanks for the information. Seems quite a few people are picking up on these changes in the sun's functioning.
Amazing photo opportunity.

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

At first I thought I was looking a a pink balloon, Bob. :D Heavens, I hope NASA is monitoring the Heliosphere.

I hope Hubble becomes workable again too. I love looking at the images that are gathered.

Life wouldn't be near as exciting if I didn't drop by here to see what is new up above. Great post and photos!!!

I just submitted the last three photos for my class. I've graduated. :D Have my certificate on natural lighting.

Hugs, JJ

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks swubird, probably decades before we would notice anything.

You're right swubird, there are people that like to specialize in certain areas of expertise and photography, I like everything, love diversification, makes things more interesting.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Ruth, when you think of it, it is a pretty amazing thing that the average person can get a shot of solar proms, come into the house, print it off and send it across the world for others to enjoy, isn't technology grand,lol.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Jesse, I love imaging the Sun, when there is activity to image,got very lucky on Sunday, never had two huge proms at one time since I got the scopr 3 years ago, very cool.

Your guess is as good as mine about the space program and the current financial hiccup,lol,too early to say, we shall see, in the long run it is beneficial for humankind to reach for the stars.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks virtual voyage, when it comes to the Sun you don't want to miss any photo op, few and far between.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Lol JJ, when people take their first look at the Sun through this scope, they say it looks like an orange, and they always say, I thought it was yellow.\m/\m/

Will said...

Too bad about the Hubble. I heard it will be next year sometime before the possibility of repairs. I guess it is better that it happend now instead of just after this mission completed? Then it might have required a whole new trip to fix, rather than just a delay in this mission.

AngelBaby said...

Absolutely amazing pictures. I didn't know about the solar winds before, how could it be related to climate change. I think that is a bit of a stretch don't you?

Love and Blessings,

Bob Johnson said...

Hi WIll that is a good point, if they had done the installs and repairs and then the Hubble goes down that would have been pretty bad, it would have been down for the count or at least till they could have bought the back up online, they probably wouldn't have sent another shuttle, so it is a good thing that way that it went down before the mission.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks angelbaby, the theory is, and it makes some sense, that cosmic rays bombard gas molecules in the atmosphere which form the nucleus of water vapour droplets, they then turn into clouds.

The clouds then reflect some of the Sun's energy into space cooling the Earth, therefore less Solar wind pressure, less Heliosphere, more cosmic rays, more clouds, cooler Earth.\m/\m/

kml said...

Wow, Bob - your suns are magnificent. You have equipment to cover everything up there, don't you? I didn't know that about the solar wind - very interesting!

Susanne49 said...

I have enjoyed the video in the blue tones, very nice and interesting post, as usual.
Thanks for sharing.

Roger said...

Awesome post Bob man!

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Kathy, now you know a little about Solar wind, just incase it ever comes up in conversation, you got it covered,lol.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks a lot Susanne.\m/\m/

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Roger.\m/\m/

Priyank said...

Hi Bob,

Heliosphere must be turning into hellosphere absorbing the solar bursts. Interestingly, I was reading an astrology article linking solar activity to events on earth. It made little sense ofcourse :)


Bob Johnson said...

Lol, the Earth is so fragile, there is so much out there that is not conducive to life, we are so lucky to be where we are, the right place at the right time.\m/\m/

Swubird said...


Great old Russian video of the metoer. I love that stuff stuff. I bet you would like to get your hands on a junk of that old meteor, right?

Happy trails.

Livingsword said...

Hey Bob!

Cool photos of that red balloon! Surrrre it’s the “Sun”…mhmm

Do you sometimes wear your bath towel as a cape and then run thru the neighborhood with your telescope under one arm? Well you are Super Bob to me!

You don’t fool me those aren’t solar prominences in the video! It is obviously a video of some Saskatchewan farmer’s sprinklers!

Shame about Hubble I could use some more images…. :)

Seriously though great article, I particularly found the info on the Heliosphere of interest as it does have massive implications for our environment and for our protection from dangerous rays and matter from outside the solar system.

Anna said...

Bob this is so cool. BTW I hope your neighbour is not reading this post, lol. Anna :)

Texas Travelers said...

NIce post and Photos.

WOW! Activity on the Sun.

I had just about given up reading my e-mails from SpaceWeather.com

Thanks for the visit,

Texas Travelers said...

PS: I vote yes for backup replacement on the next repair mission to Hubble.


Addiction Help said...

Astounding post. Obviously I am not alone in loving the sun image. Your detail is superb. You just gave me a new fav I will be revisiting regularly. Thanks

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