The Sciences

A fiery angel erupts from the Sun

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJul 28, 2011 4:27 PM

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When you build and launch a high-resolution solar observatory that stares at the Sun 24 hours a day, you're bound to catch some pretty cool stuff. As proof, check out this video of a stunning prominence erupting from the Sun's surface on July 12, 2011, as seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory:

[embed width="610"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2ZuRxz0F98[/embed]

[Make sure you set the resolution to at least 720p.] That's really graceful, especially considering that tower reached the staggering height of about 150,000 km (90,000 miles) above the Sun in just a few minutes! The gas on the Sun is ionized, which means it's had one or more electrons ripped away from its atoms. Technically called a plasma, this makes it sensitive to the Sun's strong magnetic forces. That becomes really obvious after it starts to collapse; it doesn't follow a ballistic trajectory like you'd expect (the path a ball thrown up in the air would follow), but instead flows along the Sun's magnetic field lines. This video is in the ultraviolet, where such a plasma glows brightly. For a moment there, just at its peak, it coincidentally looks like a classic angel with wings spread. Of course, once the angel dissolves it forms more of an arc... so I guess this makes it an archangel. I'm glad no one heard a trumpet playing when this happened. That could've been awkward.

Credit: NASA/SDO


Related posts: - The Sun lets loose a HUGE explosion - Followup: Sunspot group's loopy magnetism - Incredible solar flare video - kaBLAM! Footage of the X-class flare

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