The Sun and its imminent danger to Earth

Jiminy Crickets! The Sun is belching out energy like windmill in a hurricane!

This week gave us Sunspot group 1476, also known as Active Region 1476. This vast magnetic region that is blanketing the Sun’s heat and not allowing energy to escape is larger than Earth.

These regions are usually 5,000-7,000 degress F. cooler than the rest of the Sun.  Last Wednesday, one of the magnetic bands snapped, potentially releasing billions of tons of Solar matter toward Earth at millions of miles per hour.  Strangely, the Sun seemed to inhale and the main band was just sucked right back down into the Sun, most likely due to extreme gravitational forces.

Indeed, frequent readers may be thinking that I have some sort of unnatural interest in our Sun.  Honest, I don’t, it’s just that the Sun is the only star that I can view in the daytime.

A couple of weeks ago I introduced the Sun in white light and Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) to the students at Nebbie Williams Elementary School.  The students really, really enjoyed the Sun, especially sunpots and the solar prominences in the Ha telescope.

The Sun, captured by Max Corneau 13 May 2012 from Rockwall, TX, 80mm telescope, Phillips Webcam 2,000 frames at 30 frames per second. Aligned, stacked and combined in K3CCD Tools, post-processed in Photoshop CS2 ©2012 max Corneau

Today, I dragged out my gear and imaged the Sun’s active sunspot regions.  Here is AR1476 and e the other active region, with 1477 and 1488 and 1489.  I took this image on Sunday, May, 13, 2012 from my backyard using the same gear I’ll have at the library.

Early last week, space weather forecasters were about ready to head for underground shelter because AR1476 was highly active magnetically and thermally and it appeared that it was going to belch out an X-Class Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).

An X-class CME can be disasterous if it erupts when its progenitor Sunspot is pointing directly at Earth.  Such was the case earlier this week.

We spend untold amount of dollars on law enforcement and military forces to defend us and uphold the rule of law – mankind’s law.  But we really spend a pittance on how to deal with known physical forces that could instantly incinerate our planet and its inhabitants.

Please don’t confuse me, I’m not a wacky pacifist, as I served 24 years in the Army, fought in several wars and have looked into the eyes of pure evil.  We need a military, but we also should be developing a Solar advance warning center and an asteroid or comet pre-impact plan.

Just for grins, check out the size of AR1476 to Earth.

Size of Earth compared to Sunspot 1476. Image-NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

Speaking of the Sun, on June 5th, at 5 p.m. until 7:45, I’ll be presenting a free program at the Rockwall County Library.  The show we hope to view if the weather is not cloudy, is the Transit of the planet Venus in front of our Sun.  I’ll have my two solar telescopes and a .ppt presentation rolling inside the library so folks can bounce back and forth between viewing and learning.

This is literally a Must See activity because no one reading this sentience will probably be alive when the next transit of Venus occurs in the year 2117.

The strange thing about this transit thing is that it happens every 122 years and then a second pass occurs eight years later.  The last transit was in 2004.  The last on before that was in 1882.   Eight years before that in 1874, then in 1761 and 1769.  The first recorded event of a human recording the Transit of Venus probably happened in 1639. So this is very rare event indeed. Also, it’s really neat that this event lasts so long, affording ample viewing time.

If you’re reading this then there is a better than even chance you utilize our wonderful Rockwall County Library.  I love working with the librarians and staff at the library; they value learning no matter your age and are just such wonderful hosts that going anywhere else to do astronomy outreach programs (except on cruise ships) is sort of a letdown.  We look forward to seeing you on the 5th of June at the Rockwall County Library.

Before leaving you, good reader, one last bit of good news: Of course “there’s an App for That” so you and your smart phone can be up to date on the Transit of Venus info. 

Next week I’ll provide a historical background to the six Transits of Venus that have been recored by human beings.  Hint:  Nations built ships to voyage far and wide in the hopes of being able to precisely measure the distance to the Sun.

Max Corneau, aka AstroDad, of Rockwall

Our Universe Today is a column written by Blue Ribbon News special contributor, Max Corneau, who has lived in Rockwall with his family since 2000.

Max retired from the U.S. Army in 2009 as a Lieutenant Colonel, Senior Space Operations Officer and Master Aviator.  He amassed over 3,200 hours as a pilot of Special Electronic Mission Airplanes.  Since 2004 he has been a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, is a Master of Astronomical Outreach through the Astronomcial League and built his own astronomical observatory. His amazing images can be seen at


See the 2012 transit of Venus across the Sun with AstroDad

AstroDad educates, entertains students at Nebbie Williams Elementary School

When the sun belches

How to buy a telescope: Part 1 and Part 2

Earth’s recent asteroid encounter is closest in 200 years

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