Feeds

Breaking wave 'big as the USA' spied on Sun's surface

Gnarly plasma rip suited to the Silver Surfer himself

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

NASA boffins, staring into the Sun with a new space telescope, say they have detected unthinkably enormous waves rolling across the star's hot surface - as if a gigantic breaker of the sort beloved by surfers were scaled up to the size of the United States.

Giant breakers of the solar corona. Credit: NASA/SDO/Astrophysical Journal Letters

Epically sick plasma.

The wave-forming process taking place on the surface of the Sun is the same as that which takes place in the Earth's oceans. It's known as a Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, and involves two different fluids flowing past each other. Off the beach, the air flows past the sea and rapidly turns tiny ripples into mighty swells and breakers: on the surface of the sun, plasma erupts in mighty spouts, so becoming less dense, and then blows across the surface of non-erupted plasma to create waves just like those of Earth - only much, much bigger and hotter.

"I wasn't sure that this instability could evolve on the sun, since magnetic fields can have a stabilizing effect," says top NASA sun-boffin Leon Ofman. "Now we know that this instability can appear even though the solar plasma is magnetized."

The pic above, showing the colossal plasma breaks available to any surfer with a really good heatproof space wetsuit and a superpowered forcefield magnet surfboard, was snapped last year by the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) when it had only just been fired up.

"SDO is not the first solar observatory with high enough visual resolution to be able to see something like this," says Ofman's colleague Barbara Thompson. "But for some reason Kelvin-Helmholtz features are rare. The fact that we spotted something so interesting in some of the first images really shows the strength of SDO."

Ofman and Thompson's paper describing the mighty breaks of the solar corona will be published in the 10 June edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters and can be found online in advance of press here. There's more from NASA on the SDO here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.