Research Images As Art 2009 Gallery

Sigmoid: portents of eruption

Miss Alison Wallace, Space & Climate Physics

This innocuous S-shaped structure has the ability to wipe out life on Earth. It is the product of immense magnetic structures that have combined in the atmosphere of our Sun to produce a special configuration that will later erupt into the solar system. This image is loaded with information on the magnetic structure, temperature and plasma flows in the lead up to an eruption which collided with the Earth, disrupting its magnetic field, sending communications and power systems into overload. Sentinels such as the Hinode spacecraft monitor these S shapes and have given us the unique insight into their role in catastrophic events such as coronal mass ejections and flares. This image represents the vulnerability of the Earth and reminds us of the fragility of our existence in the hostile space environment.


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