Of Flaring Suns and Starry Nights

While Ham Radio operators are vexed by the lack of spots on your planet’s yellow star, there is still activity.

Frankly, having read recently 48 Hours by William Forstchen – US HERE – UK HERE – this sort of story makes me edgy enough to push me to an examination of conscience.  Scary stuff.

From SpaceWeather.

BIG ACTIVITY ON THE SUN: A gigantic filament of plasma is dancing along the northwestern edge of the sun, rising more than 150,000 km above the solar surface. How large is that? It’s fully 1/10th of the sun’s diameter and almost a dozen times taller than our entire planet. Click to view a 2-day movie from NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory:

This is called a “hedgerow prominence.” Hot glowing plasma inside the structure is held aloft by unstable magnetic fields. If the magnetic support collapses, plasma can fall back to the solar surface, exploding in a Hyder flare–a type of solar flare that can occur with no underlying sunspot.

NASA and Japanese space telescopes have taken high resolution images of similar prominences and seen some amazing things such as (1) tadpole-shaped plumes that float up from the base of the prominence; (2) narrow streams of plasma that descend from the top like waterfalls; and (3) swirls and vortices that resemble van Gogh’s Starry Night.

I like that reference to Van Gogh.

Did ya’ll see the movie Loving Vincent?  US HERE – UK HERE

This tells something of the painter’s rather sad story, but in an amazing way.  They found a way to animate some 90+ paintings… portraits, landscapes, stills, etc…   It is a painted movie…. a motion painting. There is a sample of one his “Starry Night” paintings in the trailer, moving like the SpaceWeather piece suggests.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Why do ham radio operators need sunspots?

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    What is it about Vincent the painter that touches so many, myself included. I had never heard of the film, that must be something to see in a theater.
    I think he only sold one painting in his lifetime. Maybe that’s why he touches the heart so. He never knew.

  3. Malta says:

    A cyber attack, EMP or CME have the same effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2-rkZOL8C4

    90% of us could be dead in one year. This all ties in with Akita, in my opinion.

  4. Malta says:

    @Kathleen10: Vincent was a very enigmatic, mysterious man, and Loving Vincent is the best movie I’ve seen in years. He studied to be a preacher, cut off his ear for a prostitute he was in love with, and probably did shoot himself in the stomach. Obviously before his time, he did only sell one of his paintings, which can now fetch tens of millions of dollars.

  5. Benedict Joseph says:

    Thanks for the heads up on “Loving Vincent.” He transcends modern art.

  6. acardnal says:

    I own the Blu-ray of this movie. It is available on streaming services, too. I have to say my mind was blown away watching it! On the Blu-ray there are some wonderful “extras” that show how this movie was made and many of the artists involved in painting the frames. Unbelievable!

  7. Asperges_me says:

    Sunspots interact with the atmosphere, allowing long distance communication. Aka “skipping” or “dx”. At a solar minimum, long distance communication is limited.

  8. teomatteo says:

    Van Gogh’s paintings: over rated especially the portraits. A massive solar event–probably not.

  9. TonyO says:

    Ya know what is so great about Starry Night?
    Yeah, me neither.
    Sorry, Van, you needed a different line of work.

    He transcends modern art.

    That’s about like saying: “Why, he could sell tools to car mechanics!” Whelming, to be sure. My 5-year old transcended modern art.

    [The astonishing absurdity of your comment inspires me to ask: “Which “Starry Night”? Also, please share some of your own art with us. And, have you ever seen a painting by Van Gogh in person, not just in photos.]

  10. TonyO says:

    OK, Father, I will admit to making an edgy comment. And I freely admit that my own art would be far, far worse than his – worse than my 5-year old’s too, for that matter. I don’t think my non-ability translates to giving him a pass, though as if my limitations makes his art better. (Any more than my sins makes McCarrick’s less horrific, to give a reverse example.)

    However, while I do not clearly remember seeing his works in person, I visited the Smithsonian art museums enough that if any are there, I saw them.

    But I won’t back down on the point about transcending modern art: whether Van Gogh’s art was great or good or fair or barely passable, “transcending modern art” is so low a bar to surpass that it is almost a slap in the face to a real artist – it would be like telling an athlete “why, you’re good enough to beat a quadriplegic”. I mean, seriously: a stack of laundry? C’mon! [*sigh*]

    And I would positively demure at the angle of teomatteo’s comment “Van Gogh’s paintings: over rated especially the portraits. . On the contrary, his portraits are quite acceptable (mostly), it his other stuff that is useless. I was focused on his other stuff (as indicated) in my earlier comment.

    More generally, let me make a point philosophical. Here is a quote from Oxfordonline: [Really?]

    The Post-Impressionists rejected Impressionism’s concern with the spontaneous and naturalistic rendering of light and color. Instead they favored an emphasis on more symbolic content, formal order and structure. Similar to the Impressionists, however, they stressed the artificiality of the picture. The Post-Impressionists also believed that color could be independent from form and composition as an emotional and aesthetic bearer of meaning.

    I say that if this last statement is correct, then neither the Post-impressionists (like Van Gogh) nor anyone else has a leg to stand on to complain when someone says “it doesn’t mean anything to me”. It makes the “art” fundamentally subjectivist, rather than calling on the universals like truth and beauty, and if anyone says “it does not speak to my emotions or aesthetic sense” there can be no objection.

    It does not speak to my emotions or aesthetic sense. Apparently, it did the same for all but one of his contemporaries. That it may seem to have done so for many people later, is (in my mind) easy to discount, in that many of just the same people also exclaim over modern art such as the afore-mentioned stack of laundry – why should we give weight to such perceptions?

    [Good grief.]

  11. teomatteo says:

    I live outside of Detroit and a member of the DIA. A few years ago the DIA had an exhibit of ‘The Portraits of Van Gogh” They had about 25 portraits that he did (not just of himself) and the place was packed. Everyone had on the headphones and the casette-like players and listening to the recodings. [You mean they were learning something?] It was then that i said aloud to my wife, “if someone painted a portrait of me like that? i can see why no one paid him.” My wife has never forgiven me. I stand by what i said.

    [You need to apologize to your wife.]

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    TonyO requires a thorough instruction on the history of the visual arts, and an immersion in the studio for a few years mastering anatomy, line, value, color. Just start rendering with some charcoal, a white chalk on a grey sheet of paper the basic shapes, cubes, spheres, cones, cylinders. See how far you get. Van Gogh could do all of it, then he moved beyond rendering reality with his own style but always faithful to nature. In color, as no one ever had before. And always faithful to nature and the physics of light.
    Myself no great friend of abstract expressionism or has what followed, I sympathize with the challenge contemporary “art” requires. Nevertheless, do not write of that which you have no understanding. Van Gogh was a master painter on a par with Giotto, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. If only he had had a Sistine Chapel to enhance.

  13. TonyO says:

    Benedict-Joe, I will admit that I am not deeply educated in the visual arts. (However, I have actual artists in the family, who make a living at visual art, so I have been exposed to a little.)

    However, let me ask you something: If it takes years of education in the history of those arts, along with years in the studio, to be able to discern the goodness of a work of art, do you not find something odd about that? Should not great art speak also to those who HAVE NOT spent years and years studying the subject in ever more abstruse detail, should it not speak to those who are interested in good art but have only a passing introduction to it? I am not speaking of being able to appreciate the technical ability: the ability to play with light and shadow, the ability to create just the right shade, the ability to use brushstroke for various effects – these are objective skills that are important and may be not immediately grasped by the neophyte just looking. It is what the craftsman does with his capabilities that determines whether it is good or not, and total brilliance in creating absolutely awful crud would not be praiseworthy, even if the shadowing and brush work are beyond compare.

    Let me move over to the audio arts: I went to an event with a symphony orchestra a few years back, and recall a specific incident: the orchestra played a Bach piece first, and did it very competently (from what I can tell, though I am no musician). Then they played a piece by Fred Lerdahl, a modernist a-tonal composer. After about 8 minutes into the piece, with virtually everyone in the audience wincing and wishing they could put their hands over their ears, a youth near me asked his dad “when are they going to stop tuning their instruments and play the piece?” It was just the right question, because the composition was not music properly speaking, having no principle of internal organization and awful mixing of divergent elements from the various instruments. I know that mathematically there was something that the composer had in mind, but music is for the ear first and then for the mind, and this was not. Only a music master who is also a mathematician could truly appreciate the mathematical “point” of the composition, and that’s not music.

    There is a reason that modern art goes along with modernism philosophically: they are two sides to the same coin. They bear on each other integrally.

  14. teomatteo says:

    Benedict Joseph, your responce to TonyO was interesting to me. I have had the opportunity to see Vermeer’s ‘The Scale’ at the Detroit Institute up close (as per Fr Z.) And some years ago i was able to view Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom in Arles’ up close. They are about the same size. I must say that one artist is not in the same class as the other. One artist had a movie and song the other ? Nothing. That is just me, a kid from Flint.

  15. teomatteo says: Vermeer’s ‘The Scale’…Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom in Arles’

    Vermeer’s Woman With A Scale has religious overtones. Behind the woman is a painting on the wall of the Last Judgment, Christ above with raised hand. The woman is holding a scale, but nothing is on either plate. In front of her is a box of abundant jewelry. This is probably a kind of vanitas vanitatum painting.

    Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles… which one? There are three versions. Van Gogh was greatly anticipating a visit from the painter Paul Gauguin, and older man and already famous. He readied a place in the “Yellow House” which he hoped would become a colony for artists. Alas, the visit was a disaster which greatly exacerbated Van Gogh’s lack of balance. In 2016 all three Bedroom paintings were brought together in Chicago, I think for the first time since they were made.

    Here they are, on one wall together.

    They even made a reproduction of the room for the exhibit.

  16. teomatteo says:

    Which one? I’m not sure but thanks for the info. I saw it in Chicago which stirred a memory from me and i’m sure you are tired of this thread. I just think that if, if Mr VanGogh had been married with five kids and had to supplement his income from art with say, construction work, etc his artwork would be unknown– but that is ok. Don McLean did a beautiful song. Which brings me back to Chicago. I spent 25 years diving shipwrecks in the Great lakes (I especially enjoyed Lake Superior) and was constantly bombarded by questions about the ‘Edmund Fitzgerald’. Like that was the only wreck in the lakes (est 5,000). Very few knew about the wreck of the Eastland in the Chicago River because it didn’t have a hauntingly beautiful song about it. The ‘Fitz’ is the only industrial accident that had a song with the exception of, “… twenty men scrambled from a would be grave and now there was only one left down there to save…. BIG JOHN” And so Van Gogh had a sad life and I can pray for the man’s soul.
    On another note. The three paintings of the ‘Bedroom’. Did the painting technique change, improve over the course of the three renditions? In other words could a person look at the three and see if they improved in their quality by their chronological place? I ask this because in the past when i have done artwork it became obvious to me that when I repeated something I liked it so much better than and earlier version. I just seemed to get better. I have built model ships from scratch (of the shipwrecks we expored) and the improvement over just a couple of weeks was fun to see. Now a master may not have this experience. Just wondering. Thanks for your blog. teo

  17. Benedict Joseph says:

    TonyO: Your last sentence bears much weight and I appreciate it, deeply. I’ve more than once employed the pejorative “abstract expressionist” to describe more than one gross reality in contemporary “kulture” from political perspectives, science [contemporary gynecology and climate change], to theology, liturgy and to a certain pontificate. Yours is not lost upon me, rest assured. And this is a big topic which I am not up to covering as it deserves.
    Individual expression in the fine arts – any of them – has something of a greater weight than it can have in other disciplines. Despite the assertion of Antonio Spadaro and the ascendant school of Jesuit theology 2+2 does not equal 5. The conceptual tools of the fine arts are not applicable to the other disciplines generally speaking. Analogous thinking usually does not work well during a heart transplant.
    In the fine arts there is concrete criteria of esteeming not only craft and technical skill [invaluable], but also the individual vision of the artist – it is absolutely of the essence in any authentic work of art. This has always been so. We hold in esteem the visualizations found in the caves at Lascaux, the reliefs of the ancient Egyptians and Minoans, the work of the classical Greek sculptors and the inheritance they bequeathed to Rome. Would any of us defame Andre Rublev’s “Virgin of Vladimir” or “Old Testament Trinity” in favor of a Raphael Madonna or a Murillo Nativity? Jump into Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” and observe the bold passionate and individualistic application of the paint. Think of El Greco, Thomas Hart Benton, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Georgia O’Keefe. Corot, Renoir… their genius was individual, all theirs, and what they saw provides us a new lens with which to view God’s creation.
    Sometimes you have to make a leap.
    Much of the corruption in contemporary culture is the result of economic entities taking advantage of expedient methods to mass produce products cheaply, affect a shallow appetite for them, and exploit that appetite for profit. It did take Vermeer longer time to paint “Young Woman with a Water Pitcher” [my favorite] than Van Gogh took to paint “Harvest at La Crau with Montmajour in the Background” [my favorite of his] which was about eight hours.
    There is not a painter on the planet – from the most accomplished classical realist to a five year old who does not envy the skill it takes to make that immediate beautiful impression on a canvas. A fine artist is speaking his own language. That it can be understood by any other is something close to miraculous. Always, I think it is fair to say that, always, you have remove particular lenses in order to see what is before you. The bottom line with the fine arts is that “delight” and conformity to the reality we perceive daily provide insufficient criteria to apply credence to a work or to its creator.
    Has the zeitgeist hijacked what is good and noble in individual vision in order to render sludge fine art? Yes it has, literally. But that was not the intention of the Impressionist, Post-Impressionists or even those who conceived a recent ecumenical council. It took the opportunistic midgets who came after them to ruin what could have been a valuable step ahead in depth perception.

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