Friday Eye Candy: Ultra-Hot Plasma Coils on Sun’s Surface

By Tom Yulsman | July 19, 2013 6:34 pm

A screenshot from a movie of the sun’s surface, as seen in the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft. Please click on the image to see the animation. (Credit: NASA/SDO)

Earlier this week, the Sun blasted billions of tons of hot particles from its surface toward Earth at a speed of about 560 miles per second. But not to worry: The Space Weather Prediction Center forecasts only minor effects such as weak fluctuations on power grids as material from this coronal mass ejection hits our planet’s protective magnetic field.

And there’s one perk for residents of the northern tier of states in the U.S., including Northern Michigan and Maine: They may get to see the aurora borealis tonight and tomorrow.

There’s also another perk for all of us: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the aftermath of the event on the sun’s surface. To see what happened, click on the image at the top of the page for a dramatic animation.

The movie shows a closeup of the sun’s surface, seen in extreme ultraviolet light. It covers a period of 12 hours on July 16. Watch for a burst of activity toward the center followed by a dramatic brightening of coronal material that coils in tight loops along lines of magnetic force. Then watch for another burst of activity toward the lower end of the loops.

The sun is at the peak of its 11-year activity cycle, known as “solar maximum.” But the activity is actually the weakest in 100 years.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts


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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