Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Giant Solar Flare Erupts From Sun: VIDEO

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- An enormous solar prominence producing a solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) shot off the east limb (left side) of the sun on April 16, 2012.   Such eruptions are often associated with solar flares, and in this case an M1 class (medium-sized) flare occurred at the same time, peaking at 1:45 PM EDT. The Coronal Mass Ejection was not aimed toward Earth. 

NASA explains that a solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk) is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun's surface.  Prominences are anchored to the Sun's surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, called the corona.   A prominence forms over timescales of about a day, and stable prominences may persist in the corona for several months, looping hundreds of thousands of miles into space.  Scientists are still researching how and why prominences are formed.

The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas comprised of electrically charged hydrogen and helium.  The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo.  An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.