SOHO Video Shows Eruptions On Sun
July 22, 2013

SOHO Video Shows Eruptions On Sun

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A new video posted by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows two solar eruptions taking place side-by-side.

The video, taken by ESA and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) on July 1 through 2 this year, shows two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) launching plasma into interplanetary space.

CMEs are huge clouds of magnetized plasma ejecting from the Sun's atmosphere, which is known as the corona. These ejections comprise millions of tons of gas and race away from the Sun at several million miles per hour. It is these eruptions on the Sun that causes what scientists call space weather, which affects satellites and spacecraft in orbit.

[ Watch the Video: Side-By-Side Solar Eruptions ]

During the event, one small CME slowly emerged directly above the Sun, and shortly after, a much larger event takes place from the left. ESA said the larger event was most likely triggered as a solar filament became unstable and lifted away from the Sun.

The filaments form in magnetic loops and suspend cool, dense gas above the solar surface. Filaments appear as dark lineaments against the hotter surface below. They can form giant glowing loops called prominences.

Although CMEs are known to cause space weather, ESA said that neither of these two events shown in the video interacted with Earth. It is events like this that can cause the beautiful aurora borealis to light up and dance around the Earth's poles. CMEs can also cause geomagnetic storms that result in regional power outages and communications disturbances.

The sun is currently in its peak year, known as the solar maximum. This period is the height of the sun's 11-year cycle. Activity is expected to continue to uptick and eventually peak later in 2013. Instruments like SOHO and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) allow scientists to peer at the sun like never before.

NASA released another video back in April that shows off SDO's unbroken coverage of the sun for the past three years. This video shows the sun's 25-day rotation, as well as our host star as it builds up its activity while heading into the solar maximum.

SDO and SOHO have helped researchers uncover mysteries that have eluded scientists for many years. Recently, a team published in the journal Nature Physics that they used SDO images to shed some new light on the process behind solar flares and CMEs.