Later this month, the U.S. Postal Service will start issuing a brand new collection of stamps that includes dramatic photographs of the Solar from NASA’s Photo voltaic Dynamics Observatory.
From its place in a geosynchronous Earth orbit, the Photo voltaic Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has studied the Solar’s environment and magnetic discipline since early 2010. The spacecraft’s mission is to assist us perceive how the Solar’s magnetic discipline, and its fixed emissions of radiation and charged particles, impression life and know-how right here on Earth (and in orbit).
“Sunspots, coronal holes, and coronal loops, for instance, can reveal how these magnetic fields dance throught he Solar and its environment,” wrote USPS in an announcement saying the brand new stamp collection. “Observing plasma blasts and photo voltaic flares can assist us higher perceive and mitigate the impression of such eruptions on know-how in house.”
The collection options 10 colorized variations of SDO photographs of the Solar at its most dramatic, designed by Antonia Alcalá. SDO views the Solar within the ultraviolet wavelengths, which we are able to’t see (however can positively really feel the results of), so NASA assigned false colours to the pictures. They’ll be out there on June 18. Right here’s what to look out for:
In some spots on the Solar’s floor, the Solar’s highly effective magnetic discipline truly slows down the method of convection that retains sizzling materials churning towards the floor from the depths of the star. These comparatively cool spots look darkish in opposition to the brightness of the Solar’s corona, or outer layer, and it’s straightforward to think about them as lifeless spots on an in any other case lively star – however they’re truly locations of very intense magnetic exercise, they usually give rise to phenomena like coronal loops, photo voltaic flares, and plasma blasts. Sunspots transfer and alter always, normally over a interval of a number of days to a couple months.
Arcs of glowing sizzling ionized fuel, referred to as plasma, stretch hundreds of kilometers into house from the Solar’s floor. On the base of the arc, you’ll in all probability discover sunspots lurking. The plasma is trapped on the curving traces of the Solar’s magnetic discipline, so whenever you have a look at a coronal loop, you’re watching trapped plasma mild up a part of the Solar’s magnetic discipline like an enormous stellar neon register house. These plasma arcs might collapse in a couple of seconds, or they could maintain their form for a number of days earlier than the magnetic discipline shifts and the enormous loop of plasma collapses again into the floor of the Solar.
Photo voltaic flares
These intense bursts of photo voltaic radiation cowl the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays. Once they’re sturdy sufficient, photo voltaic flares can typically briefly disrupt communications and even energy grids right here on Earth. Photo voltaic flares are produced by exercise within the Solar’s magnetic discipline, they usually normally erupt from areas close to teams of sunspots.
Additionally referred to as coronal mass ejections, these eruptions of sizzling fuel and plasma normally occur together with photo voltaic flares.
In areas the place the Solar’s corona is cooler than common (however nonetheless very, highly regarded), the plasma is much less dense, and these patches of the Solar’s floor seem darker. The Solar’s floor always emits charged particles and radiation into house – scientists name this the photo voltaic wind – however photo voltaic wind gusts out of those darkish areas at twice the common velocity, as a result of it’s simpler for particles to flee from the Solar’s decrease layers by means of the comparatively skinny plasma of the coronal holes.