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article imageSolar prominence mistaken for UFO ship refueling on Sun's energy

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 14, 2012 in Science
Images of the Sun captured on Monday show a dark orb connected to the Sun by a dark filament. The images appear to show the orb detaching from the Sun after a solar eruption and flying out into space. UFO enthusiasts say the orb is a space-ship.
According to Life's Little Mysteries, the images captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory and posted to YouTube sparked speculations that it is a UFO spacecraft refueling by drawing energy from solar plasma. Others have suggested that the images show the birth of a new planet.
Many YouTube viewers appear to have taken the suggestion that the images show an alien spaceship drawing energy from the Sun seriously. A YouTube viewer, Athalston, for instance, comments after seeing the video:
"I have been quite sceptical about this topic; but after watching this video, I am totally puzzled as to what that is. It looks almost like it is harvesting energy´╗┐ from the sun. I would be interested to know if that things changed in size while it was attached to the sun."
But NASA scientists, according to Life's Little Mysteries, have explained that the images capture what astronomers call a solar prominence, a form of solar activity that is often observed but which scientists still do not understand very well.
Space.com reports Joseph Gurman, project scientist at the Solar physics Laboratory, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said the filament or thread observed in the image is a solar prominence that contains cooler and denser plasma than thesurrounding hotter corona at 3.5 million-degree Fahrenheit. A solar prominence extends as a bright feature into space from the Sun's surface. It often forms a loop anchored to the Sun's surface in the photosphere, but extends outwards into the corona.
Gurman explained that scientists do not yet fully understand how prominences are generated on the Sun. He said, however, that they consist of dense and relatively cool plasma loops that can shoot out from Sun's surface thousands of kilometers into space. While the corona consists of very hot ionized gases, known as plasma, which do not emit much visible light, prominences contain much cooler, bright plasma, and may persist in the corona for several months. Some prominences break apart and give rise to coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Gurman said: "When prominences are that extended in height above the limb (edge of the sun), it's usually a sign that they're about to erupt, as this one did."
Life's Little Mysteries reports that C. Alex Young, solar astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said that the impression of a dark orb sucking energy from the Sun is given because the prominence is located below a feature called a filament channel, shaped like a tunnel. He said: "When you look at it from the edge of the sun, what you actually see is a spherical object. You're actually looking down the tunnel. And this tunnel sits up top of the filament."
According to Young, the feature is not unusual on the Sun. He explained that what looks to UFO enthusiasts like a spaceship's "refueling tether" is part of the prominence that absorbs light of a wavelength emitted by ionized atoms of iron. Young explained: "The absorption is typically seen in (spectral) lines such as Fe XIV only in the thinnest, densest parts of the prominence, which is here seen edge-on as it rotates over the solar limb."
Gurman, according to Life's Little Mysteries, said the prominence was associated with a coronal mass ejection. He explained: "It's generally accepted, though still not conclusively proven, that prominence eruptions occur when the overlying magnetic field that contains the prominence material is disrupted."
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