The Sun erupted on a truly enormous scale on New Tear’s Eve, and NASA captured video of the eruption on film. The eruption was so large that that it could encompass more than 20 Earth sized planets.
The solar eruption was caught on film by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The SDO is a permanently sun-watching ship that continually records high-def video of the activity occurring on the Sun.
“Despite its size, the solar eruption was not the most powerful example of the sun’s stormy wrath, NASA officials said.”
“Magnetic forces drove the flow of plasma, but without sufficient force to overcome the sun’s gravity much of the plasma fell back into the sun,” NASA officials wrote. “The length of the eruption extends about 160,000 miles out from the sun. With Earth about 7,900 miles in diameter, this relatively minor eruption is about 20 times the diameter of our planet.”
Currently the Sun is in what is thought to be the most active phase of this solar cycle, reaching its exact peak later this year. The Sun currently follows a roughly 11-year long solar activity cycle, it’s unknown what exactly determines the length of the cycle. The current cycle is known as, Solar Cycle 24, and may end up as the least active yet observed.
“Solar flares and eruptions can have a significant impact on Earth when they are aimed at the planet. The most powerful solar flares can interfere with satellite communications, pose a safety risk for astronauts in orbit and damage power system infrastructure on the planet’s surface.”
“Minor solar storms can also trigger amazing geomagnetic storms above Earth that supercharge the planet’s aurora displays above its poles.”
There has also been various discoveries during this past year that suggest that solar flares vastly more powerful than any that we have yet seen are possible on our Sun. Recent research strongly points towards the possibility that an enormous solar flare 60 times stronger than the one that knocked out the Quebec grid in 1989 occurred in 774. And recent research done using the Kepler probe has shown that Suns similar to ours produce solar flares up to 10,000 times stronger than any we have yet seen on our Sun.
Image Credits: NASA/SDO