A Stripe Across the Sun

The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 9 2014 8:00 AM

Solar Interloper

contrail on the Sun
Well, I missed my plane.

Photo by Phil Plait

I recently wrote about the ridiculously huge sunspot cluster called Active Region 1967, which has individual spots far larger than Earth. The Sun’s rotation is currently carrying it out of view, away over our star’s eastern edge. It’s possible that it will return in two weeks more, when the Sun’s spin brings it ‘round again.

I say that because it’s happened before: A month ago, AR1967 was actually AR1944! That was the designation given to it when it was first seen in January 2014. Over the course of two weeks the Sun’s rotation swept it across the star’s face. It slipped over to the far side of the Sun, and then two weeks later it came around again, and it was given the new designation of AR1967.

Advertisement

On Jan. 6, during that first apparition, I took my camera out to shoot a few pictures of the Sun using a makeshift filter setup; I wrote about my exploits at the time (I also wrote a description of my setup). A couple of days later it was clear and sunny once again, so on Jan. 8, I went out to take some more pictures. I’m glad I did, because I got a surprise when a far more proximate visitor interrupted my session. I quickly switched modes, and took this brief video:

I must have missed the plane itself passing in front of the Sun by just a few seconds, which is frustrating. However, I take consolation in knowing it takes a fraction of a second for it to cross the entire solar disk, so even if I had known it was coming odds are I would’ve missed it. I’m just glad I got the pictures and video I did.

And it’s a great reminder of the lesson I repeat so many times here on the blog: There’s a lot of cool stuff going on over your head all the time. Look up.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.