June 9, 2011

solar prominence eruption June 7, 2011


Incredible solar eruption on June 7, 2011. Watch it as it happens!

An amazing close-up view of the phenomenon, thanks to a video produced by the Helioviewer team, an open-source project funded by ESA and NASA for the visualization of solar and heliospheric data.

Phil Platt at Bad Astronomy explains the event quite well. This is what he had to say at a post on the Discover magazine blog.
"What you’re seeing here is a solar flare (an enormous explosion of pent-up magnetic energy) coupled with a prominence (a physical eruption of gas from the surface). This event blasted something like a billion tons of material away from the Sun. Note the size of it, too: while it started from a small region on the Sun’s surface, it quickly expanded into a plume easily as big as the Sun itself! I’d estimate its size at well over a million kilometers across. It looks like most of the material fell back down to the Sun’s surface; that’s common, though sometimes such an event manages to blast the material completely away into space."

Goddard Spaceflight Center’s Dr. C. Alex Young made a longer video and provides a more detailed explanation of what happened on June 7.

This is a brief description he provided at The Sun Today:
"The solar flare occurs at the very beginning of the event and is just the brief bright flash. The flare itself is not that big, or unusual. There is a loop of dark material that rises and expands; this is the filament eruption. You can see that the material rises up, and then falls back down over a wide area of the Sun, almost half the diameter of the Sun; it is unusual to see the material splash back down over such a wide area. The material is falling back down along invisible magnetic field lines, and is not simply falling straight down due to gravity. The AIA instrument on SDO allows us to see these events in never-before-seen detail."

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