What's the point of this yarn?
NASA boffins have observed a massive filament of solar material snaking around the Sun. When fully extended the scientists believe that the filament – a cloud of stuff suspended above the fiery star by "powerful magnetic forces" – would measure some one million miles across from end to end. Solar filament (dark thread upper …
This isn't a good size comparison. If you MUST compare it with terrestrial sizes. the Earth's equator is roughly 25000 miles in circumference, so "About 40 times round Earth's equator" would be better, but IMHO "would reach a third of the way round the Sun if stretched out" would be best. The Sun's circumference is 2.74 million miles.
It is sufficient that such an amazing object exists in the universe. The fact that our very existence depends intimately on it (we like share the origin of some atoms or other subatomic particles with it), should invoke a sense of awe and wonder.
That, and a call to question our funding priorities...
As it 'appens, I was given a look through a rather good solar telescope at Harrow School's Rayleigh Observatory on the afternoon of 27th September. A curious long feature, probably the precursor to the one seen in these pictures, was clearly visible then. Unfortunately we failed to take any photographs!
> How is it one fails to take photographs?
Couldn't get the right extension tubes arranged to focus with the only DSLR camera available, which was a bit of a disappointment. At the time I had no idea that the long thin sunspotty thing would make it into an El Reg piece...
There could be more truth in that than most may think. There is nothing that says the " filament" could not get much longer and break away from the sun starting at one end and end up having a whip snapping effect of some sort that accelerates a condensed amount of plasma directly at earth. It doesn't take only a space rock or ball of ice hitting this planet to cause a significant amount of damage, but our puny brains make it so much more plausible because we've been here for such a short time. Rock fall from sky, hit earth, go boom, things die, start over. There could be also, sun spits a massive and concentrated "ball" of plasma, hits earth, goes hiss, then boom, things die, start over.
Over time, we live in a very dangerous neighborhood. We just haven't been around long enough to know precisely how dangerous.
Hmm. So the resulting doomflare as the filament collapses resulting in the biggest CME since early 1859 knocks out:- GPS, power AND internet over half the planet allowing Ebola to run rampant.
Great, just great.
(scuttles off to figure out how to kludge together a time vehicle using salvaged pinball components, assorted exotic metal oxides, Russian VFD tubes, a few radioactive materials and a not-so-recent somewhat rusty Getz)
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