For those who missed out on seeing the 500,000-mile-long solar whip that took place last week, fear not, as NASA has just released a mind-blowing video of the event. Fortunately, “the CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, with a glancing blow, causing aurora to appear on Monday evening.” Continue reading for the video and more information.
Nasa says the image is a classic example of a solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk). This is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun’s surface. Prominences are anchored to the Sun’s surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun’s hot outer atmosphere, called the corona.
A prominence forms over timescales of about a day, and stable prominences may persist in the corona for several months, looping hundreds of thousands of miles into space. However, scientists are still researching how and why prominences are formed. The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas comprised of electrically charged hydrogen and helium. The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.