A giant cloud twists across the sun. On Monday, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory released close up footage of one of these solar clouds that undulated across the star on June 7 and 8.
The video captures a short-lived solar phenomenon called a filament, caused by shifts in the magnetic field of the sun. Studying these solar phenomena can give researchers insight into eruptions on the sun that can interfere with GPS on the Earth.
A filament is a mass of hydrogen and helium that is slightly cooler than the rest of the sun. This unstable cloud is lifted high above the surface by the sun’s magnetic field. In the video, you can see the twisting movement of the filament as it fluctuates with the contact between different magnetic forces on the sun.
Although it was filmed in ultraviolet light, which we can’t see, the film has been helpfully colored red so we can watch the filament dance. The darker colors reflect cooler parts of the sun, so the filament itself is dark red, and the hotter regions are displayed in brighter colors.
Filaments often linger across the sun for days at a time, and can either fall back to the surface slowly or erupt into space in violent arcs. These eruptions are beautiful, and are useful to astronomers who are studying how the magnetic field of the sun changes over time.
These flares that occur when filaments erupt into space, or other events like solar flares, can cause disruption of GPS and other types of wireless communication, so they are particularly interesting to researchers. With these videos, NASA researchers can learn what causes these events. And while they work on that, we can sit back and enjoy the show.