By Brandon Specktor, Senior Writer Live Science
The sun’s corona constantly breathes wispy strings of hot, charged particles into space — a phenomenon we call the solar wind. Every now and then, however, those breaths become full-blown burps.
Perhaps as often as once every hour or two, according to a study in the February issue of the journal JGR: Space Physics, the plasma underlying the solar wind grows significantly hotter, becomes noticeably denser, and it pops out of the sun in rapid-fire orbs of goo capable of engulfing entire planets for minutes or hours at a time. Officially, these solar burps are called periodic density structures, but astronomers have nicknamed them “the blobs.” Take a look at images of them streaming off of the sun’s atmosphere, and you’ll see why. [The 12 Strangest Objects in the Universe]
“They look like the blobs in a lava lamp,” Nicholeen Viall, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and co-author of the recent study, told Live Science. “Only they are hundreds of times larger than the Earth.”