Home Science Space STEREO spacecraft finds gigantic tsunami on Sun

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The U.S. space agency NASA has confirmed that its STEREO spacecraft has recorded "monster waves on the sun known as 'solar tsunamis'." These monster waves were thought not to exist on the Sun, but NASA says they are real.


Over the past many years, solar astronomers have argued about “solar tsunamis”; that is, large coronal shock waves on the Sun. Do they exist or are they figments of astronomers’ imaginations?

In 1959, Gail E. Moreton (1930-1982), a U.S. astronomer observing at the Lockheed Solar Observatory in Burbank, California, found what he described as a solar tsunami.

Using time-lapse photography on the chromosphere of the Sun, Moreton described hot plasma waves moving across the Sun’s surface at speeds of from 500 to 1,500 kilometers (310 to 930 miles) per second after being generated by solar flares.

He proposed that these solar tsunamis, also now called Moreton waves, occur when shock waves intersect the chromosphere of the Sun.

But, astronomers were not convinced. They were observed at various times over the next several decades.

According to the 11-24-2009 NASA media brief “Monster Waves on the Sun are Real,” astronomers saw this event recorded by Moreton but thought they were seeing something that wasn’t real—a figment of their imaginations.

The article states, “The scale of the thing was staggering. It rose up higher than Earth itself and rippled out from a central point in a circular pattern millions of kilometers in circumference. Skeptical observers suggested it might be a shadow of some kind—a trick of the eye—but surely not a real wave.”

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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University

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