NASA Shares Video of the Sun Spewing Magnetized Plasma into Space
The sun is complicated. This enormous, swirling orb of molten hot gas makes life on Earth possible with its rays of warming light. But every now and then, it burps up massive waves of radiation so powerful, they could sear the skin off of bone in the blink of an eye. In other words, it protec but it also attac.
The video above displays a solar flare followed by a coronal mass ejection (CME) that took place in June 2011 and was featured as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day on Monday. This astonishing but also frighting solar event was captured using NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which has been observing the sun since 2010. Both the flare and CME occurred over a period of hours, this sent globs of plasma — or hot ionized gas — spewing out into space and a blast of radiation towards Earth.
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Solar flares occur when the sun suddenly releases a build-up of magnetic energy. They usually originate from sun spots, or highly magnetized regions of our star that go temporarily go dark and become cooler than the rest of the surface.
While these magnetic eruptions aren’t always followed by CMEs, the one seen in NASA’s footage discharged smoldering plasma, which rained back down onto the sun. Talk about a hell storm.
Besides creating a fire shower, this solar flare launched a blast of radiation, called a solar wind, towards Earth that would have absolutely barbecued us if it weren’t for Earth’s magnetosphere. Our planet’s metallic core generates a sizable magnetic field that surrounds our home turf. These charged particles outside of our atmosphere act like a force field that blocks and mitigates the effects of the sun’s insane levels of radiation. If it weren’t for this instead of getting sunburnt we would get fried.
So while the sun is partially responsible for making the Earth an ideal place for life, it could also absolutely destroy us with one of its plasma belches.