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STEREO Satellites Spot Solar Flare Tsunami

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the gonna-need-more-spf dept.

NASA 89

westtxfun writes "The STEREO satellites recently confirmed the existence of solar mega-tsunamis when they captured height data after a sunspot recently erupted. The scale of this tsunami literally dwarfs the Earth's diameter — it was 62,000 miles high and raced across the surface at 560,000 mph! STEREO A and B orbit 90 degrees apart and luckily, one was overhead while the other saw the eruption on the limb. This gave NASA scientists enough data to confirm the tsunami wasn't a shadow, solving a modern solar mystery. The images are simply stunning, to boot."

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89 comments

A way to solve tsunamis problems on Earth ? (-1, Offtopic)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226822)

Maybe if we harness solar tsunamis, we could use them to cancel out the wave of sea water tsunamis on Earth or at least cause them to evaporate !

Re:A way to solve tsunamis problems on Earth ? (4, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226892)

Reading TFA is uncharacteristic for most slashdotters, but this one is definitely worthwhile.

Solar tsunamis pose no direct threat to Earth. Nevertheless, they are important to study. "We can use them to diagnose conditions on the sun," notes Gurman. "By watching how the waves propagate and bounce off things, we can gather information about the sun's lower atmosphere available in no other way."

"Tsunami waves can also improve our forecasting of space weather," adds Vourlidas, "Like a bull-eye, they 'mark the spot' where an eruption takes place. Pinpointing the blast site can help us anticipate when a CME or radiation storm will reach Earth."

And they're pretty entertaining, too. "The movies," he says, "are out of this world."

Pun aside, the movies ARE great. RTFA please, everyone! You'll be glad you did.

Re:A way to solve tsunamis problems on Earth ? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227260)

I wonder if we had anything observing the opposite side of the Sun when this happened. Seeing the effects that occur exactly opposite of the flare might tell us something about the Sun's core.

Re:A way to solve tsunamis problems on Earth ? (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227760)

Well, the one that was 90 degrees away will have seen the other side of the sun as well. The video on the front page doesn't show that half though.

Re:A way to solve tsunamis problems on Earth ? (1)

4181 (551316) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234482)

I wonder if we had anything observing the opposite side of the Sun when this happened.

The project's orbital information page [nasa.gov] states that the two spacecraft are currently separated by 128 degrees. (They orbit about 0.05 AU inside and outside earth's orbit, so that their orbital periods are 346 and 388 days, and their separation changes by about 44 degrees annually.) The entire sun will be visible when they achieve 180 degrees separation in February 2011. With earth based observations, the full sun will continue to be visible another eight years. A few months of contact will be lost in 2015 as they pass behind the sun. (If only Ulysses was still operating, we could get some polar views as well. It should be silently making its next solar passes sometime around 2013-2014.)

STEREOs lunar gravitational slingshot (animated at the project's orbital simulation page [nasa.gov]) was very cool.

They are supposed to be searching for Trojan asteroids as they pass through Earth's L4 and L5 Lagrangian points, but I've not heard of any results yet.

Re:A way to solve tsunamis problems on Earth ? (1)

4181 (551316) | more than 4 years ago | (#30234518)

If only Ulysses was still operating, we could get some polar views as well.

I suppose it would also help if Ulysses had been equipped with a camera.

Re:A way to solve tsunamis problems on Earth ? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30232000)

...anticipate when a CME or radiation storm will reach Earth

It'll be at least eight minutes..

is it sending a stream of neutrinos? (1, Funny)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226864)

that will hit the earth's core and cause the plates to shift like in 2012?

Re:is it sending a stream of neutrinos? (1)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226932)

No, but it might be a sign that our sun is dying, and that we need to send Cilian Murphy and a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan into the sun's core to reignite it.

Re:is it sending a stream of neutrinos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227776)

If the sun is dying and it stops burning fuel it will have first under gone a Nova. A nuke the size of Manhattan or any other city of your choice isn't going to stop this process. The sun is big. It is really big. Even though it's relatively small compared to most stars it is enormous. It just made a surface wave larger than the Earth. The tiny nuke the size of what ever won't even be noticed on the sun.

Re:is it sending a stream of neutrinos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30228274)

The sun is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to the sun.

Re:is it sending a stream of neutrinos? (1)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230274)

Nice re-write, Sir... Well done!

A nuke the size of Manhattan is not going to have any effect on the sun, you would need a nuke the size of Jupiter to get any effect noticeable on the sun.

Re:is it sending a stream of neutrinos? (1)

nhytefall (1415959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229542)

Only if instead of Cillian Murphy, we can put the transport on auto-pilot, and fill it politicians.

Their collected hot air should be enough to get things rolling again.

Surf's up (5, Funny)

Darth Sdlavrot (1614139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226922)

kawabunga.

Re:Surf's up (1, Redundant)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227016)

Who the hell modded this "offtopic"? Waves, surfing, hello?

I swear, some of the responses and mod decisions I've been seeing on Slashdot lately make me wonder whether people are browsing in their sleep.

Re:Surf's up (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227160)

The average IQ of a moderator these days sits somewhere between a sea sponge and a dog turd.

Re:Surf's up (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227262)

The average IQ of a moderator these days sits somewhere between a sea sponge and a dog turd.

Hey! Why are you insulting dog turds?

Re:Surf's up (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227540)

Why is he insulting sea sponges? At least they multicellular organisms.

And arguably more sensuous and useful than moderators.

Re:Surf's up (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230318)

Damn straight - sponges hold 25 times their weight in water. Imagine how much waterfront land would be flooded if it wasn't for the sponges! They could be the key to combating higher water levels from global warming!

Re:Surf's up (1)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231678)

How dare you insult the intelligence of moderators? I have mod points, and I'm going to mod you down right now!

Still way better than digg/reddit (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227732)

Sure, but Slashdot still facilitates the best discussion on the net.
But I think in general as people grow up and find better things to do they move on. So it's always going to be broken because the best people move on.

HAHAHAHAHAHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227902)

Slashdot still facilitates the best discussion on the net.

Hello, kdawson's incognito account!

Idiot.

Re:Surf's up (1, Informative)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227198)

Someone with mod points and an agenda to "clean up slashdot"? Half-life and Portal references were modded "offtopic" on the recent LHC article. Or maybe someone is just modding random comments following the order of the mod selection dropdown. "offtopic" for the first comment, "flamebait" the second, "troll" the third...

Re:Surf's up (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30228002)

It seems that 'redundant' is the current theme here though. Why? I don't know, probably somebody who can't surf.

It is probably 62 miles (1)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30226942)

The article speaks about a 100,000 km high (62,000 mile high) tsunami. Assuming that they are referring to the initial height of the surface wave, that is no doubt a typo since the sun's diameter is only 14 times that. Likely, they meant something rather less such as 100,000 m or 100 km. That's still a big wave though.

Re:It is probably 62 miles (5, Informative)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227082)

Did you see the animation? That wave looks to be easily 1/14th of the solar diameter, especially near the origin.

What I learned from this article is that sunspots explode. Never knew that; I thought they faded away...

Re:It is probably 62 miles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30228324)

Empirical proof that indeed it is better to burn out than it is to fade away!

Re:It is probably 62 miles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30228514)

Some fade away, some explode - just like human zits.

Re:It is probably 62 miles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231418)

... and it looks like the sun is burping...

Re:It is probably 62 miles (1)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227086)

Looking at the movies in TFA, I think one hundred thousand kilometers at 1/14th of the sun's diameter could actually be correct. The wave is gigantic if I interpret the movie correctly.

Re:It is probably 62 miles (1)

drerwk (695572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227106)

I don't know, if you look at the side view, the initial eruption of the wave looks like it could be 5% or 10% the diameter of the sun.

Ahead, not OVERhead... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30226966)

Just correcting the summary, one spacecraft is *ahead* of the other (and of Earth) -- not "overhead". Also, they don't orbit 90-deg apart. They were ~90-deg apart for the even in question but are currently 127-deg apart. This value will increase as they continue in their orbits around the Sun. (By Feb 6, 2011 they will be 180-degrees apart, and will both be "behind" the Sun in ~mid-2015.)

Re:Ahead, not OVERhead... (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227184)

I think they mean overhead with respect to the solar event, as shown in the first movie in the article.

Exclamation points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227042)

exclamation points have no place in article summaries!

Solar wave? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227164)

You imbeciles, clearly they are a series of solar particles!

Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227192)

It's 2 years early!

120, not 90 (3, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227220)

A correction from the summary: the two spacecraft are nearly 128 degrees apart, not 90. They were launched into slightly different heliocentric orbits [wikipedia.org] that cause the angle between them to increase by about 21 degrees per year. They've already passed through the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points [wikipedia.org] of the Sun-Earth system. In Feb 2011, they'll be on opposite sides of the Sun, then start to converge once again.

They really thought it might be a shadow? (4, Insightful)

ender- (42944) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227240)

FTA:

"We wondered," recalls Gurman, "is that a wave—or just a shadow of the CME overhead?"

Really? They thought it was a shadow? And what pray-tell would be shining brightly enough from above the CME material, to cast a shadow onto the surface of the Sun?

They didn't really think that through, did they?

Re:They really thought it might be a shadow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227324)

FTA:

"We wondered," recalls Gurman, "is that a wave—or just a shadow of the CME overhead?"

Really? They thought it was a shadow? And what pray-tell would be shining brightly enough from above the CME material, to cast a shadow onto the surface of the Sun?

They didn't really think that through, did they?

I thought the same exact thing.

As a filmmaker somewhat familiar with lighting (in practice not the raw physics mind you) I was wondering what exactly could be shining brightly enought to cast a shadow of anything on the surface of the sun...

If this was a theory they were seriously considering I give them 10 out of 10 for imagination but minus a billion for logical thinking baby.

Re:They really thought it might be a shadow? (5, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227338)

It could be that a chunk of the CME was cold and not very luminous, but another chunk farther out was (the corona is very bright and hot, after all). Stereo images in multiple spectra, and it is well known that portions of the corona are much hotter than the surface of the sun, so it could be that in particular wavelengths the corona can cast shadows onto the sun's surface.

In any event, this was a comment made by a project scientist - a solar physicist - someone who probably knows more about the subject than you or I.

Re:They really thought it might be a shadow? (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227356)

Sloppy wording - absorbtion by the CME i.e. you are looking through the CME.

Re:They really thought it might be a shadow? (4, Informative)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227652)

It seems counter-intuitive but the sun's corona is brighter than it's actual surface. It's possible that some cooler ejecta from a solar flare could cast a shadow.

Re:They really thought it might be a shadow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30230492)

A shadow in our direction, like an eclipse? Sounds ok to me.

Recent? Try February. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227250)

From the article :

The twin STEREO spacecraft confirmed their reality in February 2009 when sunspot 11012 unexpectedly erupted

Since when does 9 months ago count as 'recent' ?

Re:Recent? Try February. (1, Flamebait)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227398)

Since when does 9 months ago count as 'recent' ?

Get off my lawn!

Re:Recent? Try February. (4, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30228078)

Actually, I confirmed it with one of the scientists (Joe Gurman) cited in the article -- there was an article from March that was inaccurate, and this was a correction to that previous article.

But, instead of marking it as a correction, it was posted as a new article. (I can't find the older article, so I don't know if it was removed)

They also linked straight to the movie, rather than to the explanation of what is being seen in the movie, or cite the original posting of the article, which had different images:

http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/news/SolarTsunami.shtml [nasa.gov]
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stereo/news/solar_tsunami.html [nasa.gov]

Joe also said that this was in fact "tsunami-like" in that it was the result of an initially downward wave that reflected back up, as opposed to other CMEs.

(and I probably should've added a disclaimer earlier -- I work for the STEREO Science Center)

Re:Recent? Try February. (3, Funny)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229666)

(and I probably should've added a disclaimer earlier -- I work for the STEREO Science Center)

I'm sorry, this is /. Primary sources are not allowed to be involved in the conjectural, ad hominem disputes that pose for debate on this forum. You are welcome to contribute to some other topic, provided that you know nothing about it. Have a nice day.

Re:Recent? Try February. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30231152)

I think you only need to append a disclaimer if you're trying to sell us something. You're not here for marketing, you're here for science! :)

Re:Recent? Try February. (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30231644)

because scientists never market their theories? apparently the last conference I was at was a hallucination.

it was damned honest of the GP to provide that context. I laud him/her for it.

Re:Recent? Try February. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30239620)

Well, actually, the folks who run the NASA STEREO portal page, and the science writer, Dr. Tony Phillips, both lot track of this story for several months. It then appeared on the portal page,

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stereo/news/solar_tsunami.html ,

with the wrong videos, I got all bent out of shape, and Tony posted better video and graphics at the Science @NASA page. All three (including http://stereo.gsfc.nasa.gov/news/SolarTsunami.shtml cited above) now have the short video clip that Dr. Angelos Vourlidas was referring to when he said the movies "are out of this world."

Re:Recent? Try February. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227636)

The Sun is over 4.5 billion years old. Slightly less than how old you feel when you see your kids have grown up.

9 months is but a blink of an eye.

Shadows? (1, Troll)

Java Pimp (98454) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227266)

"We wondered," recalls Gurman, "is that a wave—or just a shadow of the CME overhead?"

Shadows on the surface of the sun?

Must have been light from Venus reflecting off some swamp gas...

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227392)

The slow response to this Tsunami is clearly George Bush's fault.

Improved Long Distance Radio Propagation? (2, Insightful)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227460)

For the sake of us amateur radio operators, I sure hope so. HF DX has sucked for the last few years.

Large CME? (3, Interesting)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227596)

Wait a minute. Wasn't a CME this big supposed to completely destroy the power grid? [slashdot.org] Wasn't this supposed to plunge us back into the stone age? [slashdot.org]

So what happened?

Re:Large CME? (3, Informative)

JRManuel (30967) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227742)

It depends. If the CME is headed toward the Earth, it could. Otherwise, no. CMEs are like shotgun blasts: a lot of scatter, but you still have to aim the gun in the right direction.

Re:Large CME? (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227940)

The earth made its reflex save, duh.

Did it occur to you the Coronal Mass Ejection might not be pointed at us?

Re:Large CME? (2, Funny)

Nautical Insanity (1190003) | more than 4 years ago | (#30228244)

The earth made its reflex save, duh.

Good thing too because the CME receives a huge bonus to damage based on the target's intelligence score.

Re:Large CME? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30228498)

The earth made its reflex save, duh.

Good thing too because the CME receives a huge bonus to damage based on the target's intelligence score.

Phew, we're safe then, here in Washington DC...

Re:Large CME? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229454)

p>Good thing too because the CME receives a huge bonus to damage based on the target's intelligence score.

Then we have nothing to worry about?

Re:Large CME? (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30230398)

Haven't you been keeping up? These days it's all about mutating neutrinos and microwaving the earths core.

Popcorn, anyone?

Anihilation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227650)

Does anyone else look at that movie and think that the whole thing could go "boom", like, anytime? OMG, that would NOT be pleasant.

A watched Sun never boils (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 4 years ago | (#30227840)

Well, at least STEREO proved that phrase wrong.

We now know the Sun boils and splashes like a pot of hot chili on a stove. Now, who's going to clean up the cosmic stove top of all the solar splatters?

Re:A watched Sun never boils (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30227958)

Entropy.
(http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html)

lmod 0p (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229240)

One Here dbut now

Shades of Praxis? (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30229262)

"Stardate 2322.1, Captain's log, Stereo A, Linux commanding. After three years, I have completed my first assignment as master of this vessel, cataloging gaseous planetary anomalies in Alpha Quadrant. We're continuing our mission under full gravitational power. I'm pleased to report that ship and programming have functioned well."

*starts a cronjob*

*rumble...rattle-rattle-RATTLE-RATTLE..*

ALERT! ALERT!

"Sir, we're getting a massive energy reading, dead ahead!"

"On screen!" ...

"My...God! Shields! SHIELDS!

Global Warming? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30229314)

Maybe now people will start to take into account that the Sun may indeed have something to do with the Global Warming, instead of blaming "passive-wind" and CO2. I can't believe when these fancy politicians account for everything that may be contributing to global warming but conveniently forget to mention the Sun, but then again how would you TAX the Sun

Cosmic Fun and Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30230064)

OK -- I get it. The sun is lighting its "hot gases" with nuclear fire, emitting what is probably the biggest flaming fart in this end of the galaxy. Bad diet of black holes on top of frozen comets no doubt...
Very funny, Sol.

Stereo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30232200)

Sure, they have a stereo image, but when will 5.1 channel version be available?

Only 2400 MT? (1)

Wolfkin (17910) | more than 4 years ago | (#30237774)

"packing as much energy as 2400 megatons of TNT"

That seems a bit low, doesn't it? Only two orders of magnitude more than what we've produced in a single nuke explosion?

Too Much DBZ (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30283748)

Am I the only one who, upon reading "Solar Flare Tsunami", said it in the delivery of some overpowered fighter yelling his attack out:

SOLAR FLARE TSUNAMI!
RAGING DEATH BLAST!
LINEAR TAX RATE!
SPINNING SIDE KICK!
HADOUKEN!

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