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Plasma Blast
Date Issued: 2021-06-18
Postage Value: 0 cents

Commemorative issue
Sun Science
Plasma Blast

This series presents views of the Sun from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The SDO spacecraft was launched February 11, 2010, and began collecting data a few months later.

After the solar flare, there is a subsequent eruption of solar material—a giant cloud of magnetic fields and gas known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME.

In terms of the flare’s size, NASA, unfortunately, doesn’t mention any of the dimensions. But, by some estimates, solar flares are, on average, are around 62,000 miles in diameter. (i.e. flares like these are generally around ten Earths across.) And coronal mass ejections, which consist of a bubble of plasma (atoms with their orbital electrons removed) can span 23 million miles across.

Note that while the Sun emits all colors of light, we predominately see it in yellow, as that’s the brightest wavelength for the human eye. In the video, NASA offers visible representations of light wavelengths the SDO captured outside the visual spectrum. Hence the triptych of perspectives that appears around a minute into the video.

Plasma is not a gas, liquid, or solid - it is the fourth state of matter. Plasma often behaves like a gas, except that it conducts electricity and is affected by magnetic fields. On an astronomical scale, plasma is common. The Sun is composed of plasma, fire is plasma, fluorescent and neon lights contain plasma.

The plasma of the magnetosphere has many different levels of temperature and concentration. The coldest magnetospheric plasma is most often found in the plasmasphere, a donut-shaped region surrounding the Earth's middle. But plasma from the plasmasphere can be detected throughout the magnetosphere because it gets blown around by electric and magnetic forces.

Topics: Astronomy (11)  Forever Stamp (1052)  Science/Scientists (130)  

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