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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Watch a solar flare captured by an entire satellite fleet

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

The massive CME as seen by the SDO.
(Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO)

On 1 May, an enormous plasma flare erupted on the sun — and was captured by NASA's fleet of Heliophysics satellites.

Right on schedule, our sun is getting busy with its solar maximum business — which means a lot of really interesting flare photographs and videos. And if you want to get a sense of scale of how massive some of these flares actually get, NASA has put together a fascinating video of a coronal mass ejection (CME) that occurred on 1 May.

When the eruption occurred on the edge of the sun, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was perfectly placed to capture footage of the phenomenon. But thanks to NASA's fleet of Heliophysics satellites, the space agency was able to capture footage that goes far beyond what the SDO saw.

The event was also observed by the European Space Agency and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) — which uses two overlapping coronagraphs that place a disc over the bright sun so that it can capture the fainter solar atmosphere.

Then the LASCO C2 coronagraph, showing the region out to about 4 million kilometres, and the LASCO C3 coronagraph, showing around 21.7 million kilometres, captured the plasma expanding to the edges of its field of view.

For context, the Earth is just 12,742 kilometres in diameter, and swings between 152 million and 147 million kilometres from the sun — which is only about 1.4 million kilometres in diameter.

It's spectacular. Check it out in the video below.


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SydneyR posted a comment   

Okay, sooo is this a good thing ? Ive read the article I hear the soothing music and see the fascinating colors but if you could in laymen terms explain what does this actually mean? What causes this to happen?


DrewS posted a reply   

That's what libraries and the rest of the internet is for. This article is not intended to address your question. Do a little research and don't expect everything to be fed to you.


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

If you click on the hyperlink "solar maximum" in the second paragraph, that should help you understand what's happening. In short, though, there is nothing at all to worry about.


BrandonD posted a comment   

"which is only about 1.4 kilometers in diameter" I think you meant to say MILLION kilometeres in diameter. Just saying!!

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