Monday, September 8, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday September 8th, 2008. Today we will be taking about the sun.

You got to love the sun. Without the sun there would be no life on this planet, and in fact no planet at all to speak of. The sun gives us things like light, warmth, the aurora and other good things. It also gives us bad things like sunburn and heat stroke.

So what is the sun? It's a start. I know, I know. You all know that. Well, what is a star? A hot ball of gas that is so dense that it produces the pressures and temperatures needed to create a nuclear furnace in its core. That's just cool. There are many different types of stars and many different things that happen when stars die. I don't want to go into depth about that, but I do want to talk a little about this news story.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Academy (JAXA) announced on the first that they detected consecutive shock waves around a solar flare. A solar flare is basically an explosion that happens on the sun's surface. A lot of energy is released from these explosions. The seem to be caused by untangling of magnetic lines, but no one really knows what specifically causes them at the moment. Below is a cool movie that shows these solar flares.

So the JAXA team used a special telescope called SMART (Solar Magnetic Activity Research Telescope) to take a close look at the region around a solar flare. You can see what they found in the pictures below.

The found 3 different shock waves that occurred within 10 minutes of each other. The shock waves are marked with red, green and blue crosses. The shock waves are actually compression waves in the plasma that makes up the sun. Again, that's just cool. The plasma that makes up the sun is being compressed into a wave just like the water on the surface of a pond after you throw a rock into it. But, these waves move a lot faster and longer than the waves on a pond. They move at a few hundred kilometers an hour and travel a tens of thousands of kilometers before dissipating. I would hate to get into the wave of that wave.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 波(なみ). It is pronounced nami and means wave. I wonder if this is also the word they use for the wave at a baseball game.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

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