Happy Valentine’s Day from the Sun!


Our relationship with the Sun is a bit like having a crush on the most popular senior in high school.

It attracts the most attention, everything that happens in the solar system gravitates around it, and although it barely seems to notice us at all, we owe our lives to it because it happens to share a tiny bit of its energy with us.

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Well, the Sun decided to show a little love back to us, and the astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) send it out as a Valentine's Day card to everyone.

The image was captured on October 18th, last year, by the Hinode X-ray telescope (hinode is Japanese for 'sunrise'), which has been orbiting the Earth along the day-night terminator since 2006, taking continuous observations of the Sun. The instrument that took the image filters out all wavelengths except x-rays, which show some of the hottest temperatures on the Sun's 'surface', and this Valentine's heart shows just how hot the Sun is (for us) as it measures in at a whopping 8 billion degrees Kelvin!

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The heart is known as Active Region 11589, and it is formed by super-heated plasma streaming out of a tiny sunspot at the base of it (discovered using a different filter) along magnetic field lines to form coronal loops.

Patrick McCauley one of the support scientists at the CfA wrote: "Active Region 11589 wishes you a wonderful Valentine's Day! And what better way to say "I love you" than with heart-shaped, 8-million Kelvin plasma. Print this out with the tagline, "You are my sunshine," and you're good to go... On second thought, just buy chocolates."

(Image courtesy: SAO/NASA/JAXA/NAOJ)

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