Monday, June 9, 2014

Giant Sun Plasma Tendril: Solar Eruption - SDO Video

A massive formation on the sun made of super-hot magnetic plasma erupted this week in an explosive solar storm captured on video by NASA's SDO spacecraft.

The huge plasma tendril, known as a solar filament, erupted on Wednesday (June 4), blowing part of itself out into space in what astronomers call a coronal mass ejection (CME).

NASA's powerful Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded a video of the solar filament eruption while the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) tracked the subsequent CME.

Astronomer Tony Phillips of, a website that tracks solar flare events, wrote in a post Thursday (June 5) that amateur and professional astronomers had watched the filament for more than a week to see how it would meet its end.

"Astronomers had been bracing for the possibility that the filament would collapse, causing a Hyder flare when it landed on the solar surface," Phillips wrote in the June 5 post. "Instead, it erupted and hurled part of itself into space."

Phillips added that the solar eruption was not aimed directly at Earth, but could deal a "glancing blow" to the planet's magnetic field on Saturday (June 7), possibly amplifying northern lights displays.

A giant solar plasma filament on the sun rising up off the star's surface on June 4, 2014 in this full-disk view from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

The filament ultimately triggered a solar eruption known as a coronal mass ejection.

Credit: NASA/SDO

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and SOHO, a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency, are part of a fleet of space observatories regularly watching the sun for signs of solar storms, eruptions and flares.

The most powerful solar eruptions can pose a danger to astronauts and spacecraft in space, as well as interrupt satellite navigation and communications systems. They can also interfere with ground-based power and communications systems.

Strong and moderate solar storms can also supercharge the Earth's auroras, triggering dazzling northern lights shows.

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