A towering eruption of plasma leaps from the Sun's surface on May 3. The image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image: NASA) If you visit this blog with any regularity, you might have guessed that I'm fascinated — some might even say obsessed — with images of the sun. The mind-blowing image above should show why. Captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, it shows a fountain of plasma being propelled 120,000 miles above the sun's surface by a solar flare. Here are further details from the SDO Facebook page:
This flare is classified as an M5.7-class flare. M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause some space weather effects near Earth. Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, as the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013.
Ramping up indeed. Just a few days ago, SDO captured another massive explosion on the sun's surface:
A screenshot of an incredible video showing a massive ejection of material from the sun on May 1. It covers about 2.5 hours. Click on the image to access the video.(Video: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) Click on the image to watch the animation. It captures a coronal mass ejection, or CME, that erupted on May 1. The video was taken in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. These ejections can hurl more than a billion tons of particles out into space at over a million miles per hour, according to NASA.