Since 2010, the Solar Dynamics Observatory has been vigilantly recording all of what Earth’s closest star, Sol has been up to. Understanding the sun (heliophysics) is extremely important to astrophysics as we use it as a way to expand our knowledge of all stars. The term Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is something that’s becoming more widely used, especially with the solar-max schedule of the sun predicted to happen later in 2013.
Astrophysicists have been aware of “ropes” that are observed when a coronal mass ejection occurs, but never quite knew their significance, and whether or not they’re a precursor of a CME or a part that forms with it. Well, that is until now. Back in July of 2012, SDO observed an event happening on the limb (visible edge) of the sun, which ended up being a CME at a very nice angle. With this extremely fortunate vantage point, astronomers were able to break down the data to see what happened on the surface of the sun leading up to the CME in very high detail.
Since the Solar Dynamics Observatory is able to collect data at many different wavelengths or energy levels, it’s able to collect a wide variety of information about the Sun. The hotter the area is, the higher the energy level that the light is being emitted from. This bit of information is crucial to know just how hot that particular area of the sun is, while also learning the geometric shape and activity of these Flux Ropes as a CME is occurring.
It’s absolutely amazing on just how much we have to learn about our star, let alone the stars across our galaxy. Perhaps if we gain an even better understanding of Sol, we’ll be able to expand our knowledge of the many other stars that we have on our list to observe and understand.