Here comes the sun: Astonishing 'whip' half a million miles long spotted on solar surface (and scientists say radiation from it is heading for earth)
By Mark Prigg
Nasa today released stunning video showing a 500,000 mile long 'solar whip' on the surface of the sun - and say radiation from it is headed for eath.
Captured by from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), it shows a very long, whip-like solar filament extending over half a million miles in a long arc above the sun's surface.
This incredible image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows a very long, whip-like solar filament in the centre of the image, extending over half a million miles in a long arc above the sun's surface
WHAT IS A 'SOLAR WHIP'?
A 'solar whip' or filament is caused when a red glowing loop of plasma erupts, releasing the plasma out in huge loops hundreds of thousands of miles into space.
The filaments are anchored to the Sun's surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, called the corona.
The filaments are cooler clouds of solar material that are tethered above the sun's surface by unstable magnetic forces.
The image and video (below), which covers August 6 to 8, 2012 show the filament as a darker strand that has been in view for several days.
'Towards the end of the video part of the filament seems to break away, but its basic length and shape seem to have remained mostly intact,' says Nasa.
Today it emerged the eruption was so large it will reach earth.
The NOAA spaceweather prediction center estimates that a cloud of radiation from the eruption will reach Earth today.
The radiation cloud will create a minor to moderate geomagnetic storm, bringing the northern lights to parts of North America.
The video also reveals what the filament looks like closer to the surface of the sun
Nasa says the image is a classic example of a solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk).
This 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.
However, 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
This image of a previous solar filament of the sun's surface shows the scale of eruptions.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Solar Radiation Whip
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