back to article Plasma bubbles 500 times the size of earth, ultra-hot rain - let's face it, the Sun's not a place to hang out nearby

The Sun is a weird place, where massive bubbles of plasma, bigger than the size of Earth, are blown out from its surface every ninety minutes and hot rain splashes down in loops. Two independent teams of researchers discovered these oddities when combing through data taken by the now-retired Helios solar probes, a …

  1. swm Silver badge

    Absolutely amazing!

  2. Mike Pellatt

    And people wonder why controlled fusion with a positive energy output is so tricky

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      I gues not.

      People asking those questions probably are not wondering... if you wonder, it suggests you are thinking. ;)

      Black helicopters, as it's always a "conspiracy" and not "I don't know what I'm talking about, but cannot admit that, so will make reaching comments blaming everyone else".

    2. DCFusor Silver badge
      Holmes

      Those of us who try

      Know just how tricky it is. Actually, even the sun, with the advantage of gravity (containment is free), stinks at it; luckily for us, we'd evaporate and it wouldn't long been over with.

      Why we think that just using admittedly better fuel but otherwise trying to just impart random motion (thermal) to a plasma in a bottle is going to get us there, I dunno, my own approach involves a bit more subtlety - but still doesn't product fantastic results. I'm doing coherent beam collision stuff - no point putting energy into random degrees of freedom in my opinion....analogy - bullets don't have to be hot to hit one another very hard.

      At any rate, the sun only makes 2.8 ergs/second/cc - which is less energy per cc than human metabolism, much less, say, a coal fire.

      Ref: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/12/30/are-humans-brighter-then-the-sun/

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Those of us who try

        Or in layman's terms, a human generates about 100W doing nothing. That's about 1 kW per cubic meter. The Sun does about a tenth of that, depending on how big you figure the energy generating part of the core to be. In simpler terms, a compost heap the size of the Sun would generate a lot more energy.

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
      Boffin

      A question of perspective

      Earth only looks big 'cos you are looking at it close up.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: A question of perspective

        Small! Far away!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Seriously. Much as I love science stories, please have them written by someone who doesn't write like a middle schooler. Your Dear Readers deserve better.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
        Holmes

        Downvote for saying "middle schooler" as though anybody on the correct side of the pond knows what that means.

        Speak English, man!

    3. DropBear Silver badge
      WTF?

      There's this small problem that, at least diameter-wise, the Sun is roughly 109 times the size of the Earth - so no, that "50 to 500 times the size" isn't happening - at least the way a naive reader would imagine it; no idea what metric they used - surface, volume, mass or something else - but... "reader beware".

      1. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
        Boffin

        Small, far away

        Can't read the original article as I'm not a subscriber. That being said, I assume these "bubbles" start off smaller than the sun but expand as they travel away from the sun. So they could get very big, but I assume they are not spherical?

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Nothing to worry about ...

    We've heading into a solar minimum, with sunspots and activity subsiding - it's probably going to be the lowest level of activity in 100 years. But then it will likely pick up again ... 2059 will be the 200 year anniversary of the Carrington Event.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing to worry about ...

      Fortunately, the sun does not run on Earth years, so anybody predicting solar events based on a 100 Earth year cycle is into geocentrism. Pre-Copernican astronomy is not that well regarded these days.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Nothing to worry about ...

      The next Carrington event will be interesting. We'll be able to talk about it but only a few radio hams will be able to do it over more than a few feet.

  5. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    A (mostly) serious question

    I've wondered about this for a while so I'll ask the commentard collective.

    Any satellite or probe will have a hot side and a cold side. Say you had a sterling engine aboard that used this temperature differential to generate electricity. Then use that to power a laser beam pointed out into space. My thinking is that as you are now pumping energy away from the probe it should cool it.

    Is that in any way correct? Would any sharks be harmed in this experiment?

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: A (mostly) serious question

      The problems INCLUDE the efficiency of the laser and the heat engine. A hot resistor or filament lamp in front of a mirror on the craft, but shaded from the sun will be more efficient at radiating energy than a laser and its electronics. Also dark side has a problem for the heat engine. That needs to radiate heat to stay cool, that's very difficult in a vacuum.

      I'm not sure the cooling problems for spaceships has any simple solution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "needs to radiate heat to stay cool, that's very difficult in a vacuum"

        I'm being a pedant here but radiating is just as easy in vacuum as it is elsewhere. The problem is that the easier methods of getting rid of heat aren't available and radiating is all you can do.

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: " radiating is just as easy in vacuum as it is elsewhere"

          Indeed it's the only way in a vacuum. Car radiators, fridge & Freezer radiators, household radiators are, to the pedant, misnamed. They are transferring heat by conduction to the atmosphere, aided by either convection of the heated air or a forced airflow.

          I was using radiate in the casual "wrong" everyday sense. A "radiator panel" on spacecraft will work very poorly as it can only radiate electromagnetic waves. A laser or Magnetron works better, but a lamp filament is maybe more efficient way to dump electrical energy considering the total system.

      2. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

        Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

        Thanks! That's some seriously nerdy link, I'd never heard of Torchships. Nowadays I tend to believe that we're in a simulation so interstellar travel would not work. If the Voyager probe disappears shortly it may be a clue that the simulation has a boundary. In the meantime I still enjoy sci-fi, it's nice to expand your thoughts to galactic levels.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

          We are not in a simulation. It's all out there. Right to the edge of the observable universe, and possibly a little further than that (actually, as far as I can tell, the observable edge moves with you. ;) ).

          As to the type of simulation you assume, think about it this way. When we lived in a village, did we assume it was really a city, and we were in a park in the middle, and the city was just playing a trick on us?

          When we lived in a city, did we think it was really a giant continent on an island, and everyone was on boats surrounding us, pretending it was a city?

          Now we have got to a globe, and are we thinking "there are people/things on the outside pretending it's a globe/planet/reality".

          There might be others out there, but simulating this reality is not the situation. This one is very much real, even if we find out lots of complex things about it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

            The simulation idea is in fact an attempt to reinvent the idea of a creator god with a pseudo-scientific justification.

            If we're a simulation, what created the the computer running it?

            If there is a creator god, what higher level god created it - since it must be more complex than the universe.

            I think this one was actually exploded the moment Bell Labs started to take information seriously.

            1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

              Not really. The simulation idea is the simulation idea. Trying to put baggage on an unrelated history is well, bias.

              We invented turing machines just over 100 years ago. These allowed a certain mathematical and mechanical functions to "simulate" other things.

              The age old question you mean to relate to is "are we just a writing in a book/is life just a dream" style philosophy.

              This is a different point to *who* or *what* made the [theoretical] simulation/dream.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

                No, the objection to the simulation idea is precisely the same as the objection to the creation-by-a-god idea. If two different things can be refuted by the same argument, then they must have points of similarity.

                You are raising a completely different issue, that of analogy. The simulation idea is analogous to the Hindu idea that Brahma is dreaming our world.

                But someone so ignorant of the history of ideas that they can neither capitalise Turing nor know when On Computable Numbers was published (1936, not nearly a hundred years ago), and also nor know that "we" (presumably the US public) did not invent Turing machines is, I submit, not qualified to discuss this subject.

                1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
                  Headmaster

                  Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

                  Not really. Again. There is functional difference.

                  There are for instance, observable considerations in QM that give rise to questions (such as Boltzmann brains) that thankfully as far as we can see, have observable solutions (that we are not brains in jars).

                  However, these are mathematical/physical/scientific observations, and seperate to theory/philosophy/theism.

                  Downvote me if you wish for pointing out the difference. But there is specifically one. A "is the universe a holographic projection into 3D space" is not asking "is the universe on the back of a turtle".

                  HAHAHAHAHAHA. Yes, you are right, Turing did not "invent" them. But did help confirm some observations, such as the halting problem etc. I could go back to the Greek automaton if you wish, but that would be off topic. Continue to cover your ears.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

                    If the universe can be described as a holographic projection (and it isn't a suitable space* so as of writing, no) that would not make it a simulation. It would just be a different description, useful if it simplified some calculations, explained the relations between things that currently appear unrelated, or otherwise gave rise to new laws.

                    *I vaguely recall the idea only works for de Sitter spaces, perhaps someone can clarify.

                2. JimC

                  Re: 1936, not nearly a hundred years ago

                  Is 83 years ago nearly a hundred? Its more than 75%: you could make a case that it is...

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: 1936, not nearly a hundred years ago

                    He wrote "Just over 100 years ago". 83 is not just over 100. That was just one of the mistakes in the post, but reading his reply I see he's just a general alt-science person who doesn't understand the subject, as I thought.

          2. tfb Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: A (mostly) serious question @Mage

            Right to the edge of the observable universe, and possibly a little further than that

            Given that we think the universe is spatially flat and therefore spatially infinite, quite a lot beyond that in fact.

            (Before objecting look up current cosmological models, and yes, infinite at the big bang too.)

  6. Blazde

    Plasma rain, plasma rain

    I only want to see you under-neath the plasma rain ♫

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      My Fair Sol

      The rain in SpainSol staysfalls mainly in the plainloops

      --->raincoat

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Plasma rain, plasma rain

      now, if you wanted a song about solar science:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JdWlSF195Y

  7. asdf Silver badge

    Completely irrelevant

    Anyone else do a wait wut when seeing Catholic University of America in the article?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Completely irrelevant

      No, the Vatican has a perfectly competent astronomy department to keep the Pope and Cardinals up to date with the subject. There's an entertaining article by S J Gould about how he went to a Catholic science conference and some Jesuits were asking if it was really true that there were Americans who were Creationists.

    2. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Completely irrelevant

      Hey, the Catholic Church actually has a policy for Contact With Aliens! Beat that, Falwell!

    3. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Completely irrelevant

      No offense to Catholics more just since I don't live on the east coast it sounded at first like a made up university like Eddie Murphy comes up with in Coming to America as his cover story. Good for them to fund research. Guess when the next frontier opens up they don't want to be left behind.

  8. Daedalus Silver badge

    Size matters

    the bubbles can balloon to the size of anywhere from 50 to 500 times the size of Earth

    Well, the Sun is 100 times the diameter of the Earth. So some bubbles are five times the diameter of the Sun. Or are we talking about volume or mass or something other than diameter?

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