“I’ve got to have 5 more minutes!” No… wait… different thing. COOL SPACE PHOTO!

Here is a super cool photo from Astronomy Pic of the Day:

No, this isn’t the Enterprise escaping from the collapsing anomaly by reversing the polarity and ejecting the core and… you know….

What’s up with this?

APOTD Explanation: 

In a flash, the visible spectrum of the Sun changed from absorption to emission on November 3rd, during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse. That fleeting moment is captured by telephoto lens and diffraction grating in this well-timed image from clearing skies over Gabon in equatorial Africa. With overwhelming light from the Sun’s disk blocked by the Moon, the normally dominant absorption spectrum of the solar photosphere is hidden. What remains, spread by the diffraction grating into the spectrum of colors to the right of the eclipsed Sun, are individual eclipse images at each wavelength of light emitted by atoms along the thin arc of the solar chromosphere. [That is too cool.] The brightest images, or strongest chromospheric emission lines, are due to Hydrogen atoms that produce the red hydrogen alpha emission at the far right and blue hydrogen beta emission to the left. In between, the bright yellow emission image is caused by atoms of Helium, an element only first discovered in the flash spectrum of the Sun.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. basis says:

    Thus “Helium” from “Helios”.

  2. feargalmac says:

    My first thought was Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings”.

    “One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”.

  3. pannw says:

    I don’t read Greek, so can someone translate that for me? :p Is this time elapsed photography or did that all happen at the same instant? If the latter, is it some sort of a projected image of the eclipse bouncing off of…something???? Yeah, I’m never going to be a rocket scientist, but it is cool. And that does look like the Ring!

  4. Rachel Pineda says:

    Yes, that is VERY cool. I love these posts. O ye Heavens, bless the Lord : praise him, and magnify him for ever

  5. stephen c says:

    pannw, others could explain it better than me, but here is my take – the picture is of the thousands of miles worth of colored flames just above the “surface” of the sun, which make various parts of a bright circle, and it is a picture of what that looks like all the same instant, viewed through a special set of lenses that take in each bright color separately (but next to each other, like a rainbow or like the light in a sprinkler or like the light of bright day you see through water or tears in your eyes), so what we see are a string of the sun’s flames (shaped like an arc , looks like a circle when viewed side by side) at each different color . There is one color for each of the element types in that flaming atmosphere near the Sun’s surface(several types of hydrogen (hydrogen means waterbearing, but it can burn if hot enough, and it is an element made of a simple mix of atomic parts), helium (from Helios, Sun, an element made of a less simple mix) and so on). Usually what you would see through this instrument (called a diffraction grating) is a simple line of color stripes (like a rainbow fitted into a rectangle, or a simple prism) with black lines where the color of the entire Sun is “shadowed” by other parts of the Sun (due to different temperatures on the sun, which is made mostly of hot gas of different densities, some of it blocking specific colors). Today’s posted picture of the “chromosphere” in its various bright colors is only possible, even through the diffraction grating, for a couple seconds during a total eclipse because the moon blocks most of the Sun and we see the output of the chromosphere (chromospere equals colored sphere) which is a very hot and colorful part of the Sun near the surface, about as relatively thick as the morning fog over a valley but made of flaming colorful gas), but which is usually obscured by the brightness of the sun, like looking at a candle being held up next to a floodlight … By the way, there is always an eclipse somewhere at a certain distance from the moon, but 99.9999 percent of the time you have to be in some part of space off the earth to see it …

  6. pannw says:

    Stephen c, I have read that 4 times now, and I won’t pretend that I completely understand, but I think I have the general gist! It’s like trying to focus on a floater in your eye (if you’ve ever experienced that); you can see it, though it’s a little blurred, until you try to see it clearly in focus and then, it zooms out of sight! As I read I think, aha…but don’t ask me to explain it back!! Thank you so much for taking the time to make it more clear!

  7. The Masked Chicken says:

    Spectroscopy is an interesting science unto itself. Each element has electrons distributed in 3-dimensional shells, (think spherical balloons) called the k shell (closest to the nucleus, we call this the first shell), the l shell (next further out, the second shell), the m shell, etc. One can think of the arrangement like a balloon within a balloon within a balloon, etc. In fact, one can teach elementary quantum mechanics using balloons (of course, you need a quantum clown). Each electron (think of them as flying cars) has a restricted flight space within the shell to which it belongs. These 3-dimensional highways are called orbitals (some textbooks call them subshells, but this is not a good nomenclature, in my opinion).

    Think of the cartoon series, The Jettsons. Each spherical city has to have 3-d roads that the flying cars (electrons) have to stay within. The simplest road is like the outerbelt of a 2-d city and just goes around the city (shell). This type of orbital pattern is called an s orbital. Every shell starts with an s orbital because it is the simplest, topologically. If there are more than 2 electrons in the shell (a s orbital can only hold 2 electrons), another orbital is needed. The next simplest orbital pattern may be derived from clown-balloon physics. If the s orbital is a water balloon shape (spherical), the next orbital pattern is like taking a hotdog balloon and twisting it in the middle. You get two lobes and a twist (called a node) in the middle. This type of orbital shape is called p orbital. A p orbital has 3 possible orientations: px, py, and pz. Each orientation can hold 2 electrons for a maximum of 6 electrons. The full p orbital is made by twisting 3 balloons together at right angles with the twist for all three in the middle.

    Shell farther out have even more room (bigger citites), so they need even more orbitals for all of the traffic. Each shell starts with its own s orbital, then p, then d (looks like a 4-leaf clover), than f, the g, h, i, etc (s, p d, f are historical names – after f, we go by the alphabet).

    When an electron absorbs energy in its shell, it can get thrown up into a higher shell. Now, electrons are like five years olds – they want to be close to their mothers, which, in the atom, is the nucleus which has all of the positively-charged protons pulling on the negatively charged electrons. The, “promoted,” electron will give up its energy and drop back down to its more comfortable spot closer to the nucleus, but when it gives up its energy, according to quantum mechanics, it can only give up exactly the difference between the orbital energy of the higher shell and the lower shell. This leads to a fixed, definite wavelength of light being emitted. Depending upon which shells the electrons start or stop at one gets a whole series of electromagnetic waves of different frequencies being given off.

    Suppose one looks at the l shell of hydrogen (the second shell). Electrons can be promoted up and depromoted down from that shell from any outer shell, so one sees a whole series of transitions:

    l–>m—>l, l—>n—>l, l—>o—>l, l—>p—>l, etc.

    We, typically call the s shell 1, the l shell, 2, etc, so, often, one uses the numbers of the shells instead of letters:

    2–>3—>2, 2—>4—>2, 2—>5—>2, 2—>6—>2, etc.

    The point is that each transition begins and end with the l shell (second shell) and involves shells further out from the l shell (l—>k transitions are forbidden). This series of waves all ending at the l shell is called the Blamer series and form bright lines in the visible region of the spectrum of a spectrograph. The brightest line is called the Hydrogen-alpha line and is at 656.2 nanometers in wavelength and is formed by the l—>m—>l or 2—>3—>2 promotion/depromotion cycle. This is in the yellow-orange region of the visible spectrum and, largely, accounts for the yellowish color of the sun.

    Now, when hot gases (with electrons bouncing between shells and orbitals) pass through a cooler region, the spectral lines are much cooler than the surrounding region of space, so, the lines on the spectrograph, instead of looking bright, look darker than the surrounding regions. This is called an absorption spectrograph, because the light is being absorbed by the cooler region. Since the sun is so hot, the region of space around it is very cold and, so, what we get from the earth is the absorption spectrum of the sun, where the transitions show up as dark lines next to a colored background. When the solar eclipse occurred, the heat of the sun was, at least for spectral purposes, cooled down so that the light being emitted did not get cooled out in space, so the light stayed hot when it hit the spectrograph. This gave rise to the emission spectra of the sun. The transition lines are in the same place, but, now, they are bright and colorful.

    If a picture of the sun is taken at the moment of eclipse through a diffraction grating, which breaks up the light into the entire color spectrum, the eclipse image will be repeated and line up along the color spectrum at the transition points: Hydrogen-alpha, Hydrogen-beta, etc. The left curves of the sun in the photo, above, line up at the shell-to-shell transition wavelengths for hydrogen in the visible spectrum (there are other series in the ultraviolet, infrared, etc., which cannot be seen by an ordinary camera).

    Hydrogen has a simple spectrum. If the sun had been made up. largely, of iron, the photo, above, would have looked very much more complicated, but that is the topic for another lecture.


    The Chicken

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    Just to be clear: the 2—>1 transition is possible, just not in the Balmer series.

    The Chicken

  9. trekkie4christ says:

    Speaking of Enterprises, the emission lines through the spectrum reminded me of the movie posters for The Motion Picture, only with the lines going perpendicular. The images of the moon within reminded me of the faces as well. Is that Spock I see on the left?

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