Flare, Ejection And Rain All Caught In Spectacular Solar Show
February 20, 2013

Flare, Ejection And Rain All Caught In Spectacular Solar Show

[Watch Video: Fiery Looping Rain On The Sun]

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

An eruption on the sun can be a beautiful, monstrous event, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has helped to bring these dangerous, yet breathtaking events right to our computer screens.

On July 19, 2012, the sun erupted in a solar flare, ejecting material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), creating a loop in the sun's atmosphere known as the corona.

This moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun's lower right limb, eventually leading to the CME, which took off right out into space. Afterwards, a phenomenon known as coronal rain appeared on the sun.

NASA said in a statement that over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona began to cool down and condense along strong magnetic fields in the region.

Magnetic fields are invisible, but their charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up in the ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms. This plasma acts as a tracer, allowing scientists to see the event of magnetic fields on the sun unfold, outlining the fields as it slowly begins to fall back down to the solar surface.

SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument helped to capture footage of the event on the Sun that day. This spacecraft collected one frame every 12 seconds. NASA created a video that plays at 30 frames per second, so each second of video corresponds to six minutes of real time footage.

NASA recently released an image that shows the sun in all the wave lengths that scientists are able to see our star with using spacecraft currently available. These instruments allow scientists to look at the sun in more detail, gathering more information about the sun's surface and atmosphere.

The SDO also helped scientists finally get a glimpse of a flux rope, which is known to be an indicator of when a CME will occur. Predicting CMEs would allow scientists to better prepare us for future space weather, which could potentially disrupt satellite signals, or even activities aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

To spot the flux ropes, the sun had to provide the perfect angle to see the activity, and cameras had to capture the event in the 131 Angstrom wavelength. As the flux rope formed, it showed up in images of cooler material, allowing NASA to know that the material from the flare cooled down over time as the flux rope rose into space.

“It´s a wonderful time to be a solar physicist, because thanks to the large number of telescopes we have in space at the moment, we can see things like this from every angle,” said Angelos Vourlidas, a solar scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C,.