Explosions Wrack the Sun’s Surface

By Tom Yulsman | May 4, 2013 1:12 pm

A towering eruption of plasma leaps from the Sun’s surface on May 3. The image was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image: NASA)

If you visit this blog with any regularity, you might have guessed that I’m fascinated — some might even say obsessed — with images of the sun. The mind-blowing image above should show why.

Captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, it shows a fountain of plasma being propelled 120,000 miles above the sun’s surface by a solar flare. Here are further details from the SDO Facebook page

This flare is classified as an M5.7-class flare. M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause some space weather effects near Earth. Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, as the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013.

Ramping up indeed. Just a few days ago, SDO captured another massive explosion on the sun’s surface:

A screenshot of an incredible video showing a massive ejection of material from the sun on May 1. It covers about 2.5 hours. Click on the image to access the video.(Video: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Click on the image to watch the animation. It captures a coronal mass ejection, or CME, that erupted on May 1. The video was taken in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. These ejections can hurl more than a billion tons of particles out into space at over a million miles per hour, according to NASA.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts
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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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