Watch: NASA Footage of a Solar Flare Seven Times the Size of Earth

Slate in motion.
June 3 2014 12:19 PM

A Huge Solar Flare, Up Close

Courtesy of NASA's new solar observatory.

iris720

NASA's brand-new solar satellite—the Interface Region Imaging Spectograph, or IRIS for short—finally caught its first solar flare last month, and it was well worth the wait. The coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted at a speed of 1.5 million miles per hour and was (understatement alert) an absolutely massive event.

To give you some persective on the flare's sheer size, the field of view on the video above is five Earths wide and seven and half Earths tall. And, needless to say, it has also been slowed down slightly for your viewing pleasure, so you can, you know, actually see the thing happen.

According to the IRIS science leader, Bart De Pontieu, it took some time for IRIS to finally catch a CME because of the tremendous amount of guesswork involved. "We focus in on active regions to try to see a flare or a CME," he said in a statement. "And then we wait and hope that we'll catch something. This is the first clear CME for IRIS so the team is very excited."

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Correction, June 4: An earlier version of this article referred to a coronal mass ejection as a coronal mass injection.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate Video blogger.

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