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Timelapses of Solar Puffing Are Gently Mesmerizing

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When a trio of telescopes teamed up to stare at the sun, they captured the dynamics of solar puffing. The timelapse of a puff is gently mesmerizing: not outright stunning or mind-boggling, but somehow still incredible in their understated hiccupping release of plasma.

A jet building into a puff. The red-green-blue channels are each mapped to different coronal temperatures from 800,000 to 2 million Kelvin. Image credit: SDO/U. Aberystwyth. Click for massive 50MB version.

SOHO, STEREO and the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured images of the sun from different angles on January 17-20, 2014.


"Solar puffing" is a fantastic descriptive phrase that I hope makes it into the technical lexicon. The puffs started happening about once every three hours, building into a much larger eruption after twelve hours of puffing. That the series of energetic jets and flares was recorded in advance of a larger corneal eruption suggests that the smaller puffs may smooth the way for larger eruptions.

The timelapses aren't spectacular — I was hoping for a pursed-lipped puff like the mushrooms in Plants vs. Zombies, no matter how scientifically ridiculous that is — yet somehow the slow, gentle puff of bright corneal material is enough to keep me watching through each jittery loop.


The same jet from a different angle, in extreme ultraviolet. Image credit: STEREO/U. Aberystwyth. Click for still-massive 20MB version.


The three perspectives of each telescope observing from a different position allowed researchers to build a three-dimensional model of the puffs, analyzing the mechanics of what happens when our sun starts huffing.

This isn't the first time multiple telescopes were used to view the same event. On March 29th, a solar flare was caught by five observatories, producing an astonishingly detailed look at the phenomena.


Image credits: SDO/U. Aberystwyth.