Solar Burp

We know that the giant bright light in the sky that keeps us warm is so much more than we can see.  A star, like countless others in the sky, close enough to outshine all of them.  The Sun is a dynamic object, endlessly churning and burping plasma beyond it’s boundaries into the solar system and beyond.  NASA spacecraft and ground-based telescopes have been keeping eyes on the Sun for years to characterize its 11-year magnetic cycle.  And every so often they have a front-row seat to the massive blasts that just can’t be seen with human eyes.

The first video is from NASA’s Solar dynamics Observatory (SDO) out in space, while the next two are from a ground-based observatory run by University of Texas at Austin called McDonald Observatory.  The SDO data is clearer since the telescope is in space, and it’s interesting to note that the ground-based observations show the characteristic turbulence of the atmosphere (the wobbling).  This same turbulence is responsible for the twinkling of stars.

The Sun is a fascinating object.  Even though it is an average star, it has an incredible energy output.  To put it in perspective, the entire human race used about 5.6 x 1020 Joules of energy in 2012.  That’s all the energy from all sources to power absolutely everything for an entire year. The amount of energy from the Sun that hits the Earth each day is 1.5 x 1022 Joules.

Let that sink in.  The energy the Earth receives from the Sun in a single day is 50 times as much energy as the entire human race needs in a year.

This is why solar power is important.  It’s endless, plentiful, and even if we have horribly inefficient solar panels that can use only a fraction of the solar energy that hits them, it’s still worth it.  Next time you’re enjoying a nice sunny day, think about how much energy it puts out, how massive and powerful it is, and how it is responsible for the development and survival of all life on Earth.

I suppose it can be forgiven for burping every so often.

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