A fiery angel erupts from the Sun

The entire universe in blog form
July 28 2011 12:27 PM

A fiery angel erupts from the Sun

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:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies! Follow him on Twitter.

Advertisement

[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: