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Watch: Sun Unleashes Massive Eruption

Super-hot plasma bursts from the sun in back-to-back solar storms

The sun unleashed a monster eruption of super-hot plasma Friday (Nov. 16) in back-to-back solar storms captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft.

The giant sun eruption, called a solar prominence, occurred at 1 a.m. EST (0600 GMT), with another event flaring up four hours later. The prominences was so large, it expanded beyond the camera view of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which captured high-definition video of the solar eruption.

In the video, a colossal loop of glowing red plasma erupts from the lower left of the sun, arcing up and out of frame as it blasts away from the star.

"The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium," officials with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, which oversees the SDO mission, explained in a description. "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."

Friday's solar eruption does not appear to be aimed at Earth, so will likely have little effect on our planet. But that was not the case earlier this week, when a powerful solar flare erupted on Monday (Nov. 12). That flare registered as an M6-class eruption, a moderate but still intense solar event.

On Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 13 and 14), space weather conditions sparked a geomagnetic storm that supercharged the Earth's auroras, creating spectacular northern lights displays for observers at high latitudes.

When aimed directly at Earth, the most powerful solar flares and eruptions can pose a threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, and also interfere with communication, navigation and power systems on the ground.

The sun is currently in the middle of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle is called Solar Cycle 24 and is expected to peak in 2013.

Editor's note: If you snap an amazing photo of the northern lights created by recent sun flares, or any other sky object, and you'd like to share it for a possible story or image gallery, send images, comments and location information to managing editor Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com.

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalik and SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Sun Erupts With Spectacular Plasma Prominence (Photos)
Northern Lights Over Lake Michigan | Time-Lapse Video
Anatomy of Sun Storms & Solar Flares (Infographic)

Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Total Solar Eclipse Over Australia


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November 19 2012 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lovely Esha

posthuf, you are a dummy!!!

November 19 2012 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope people are paying attention!... it's too bad they don't know what for... shouldn't have burned all those documents from the Ancient Maya.

hardly 31 days left til we know "what the Maya knew"

November 19 2012 at 10:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Next time, PLEASE leave the stupid sound track off.

November 19 2012 at 10:31 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Those of us who were educated before liberal/socialists took over our school system know that solar activity directly effects the weather on Earth.

We also know the climate changes four times every year, and as the planet circles the sun some cycles take as long as 4,700 years from peak to peak.

Because we have that education, when somebody tells us WE are personally responsible for increased temperatures the first think we want to know is how our life style is causing the polar ice caps to melt on Mars!

November 19 2012 at 10:22 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to posthuf's comment
Lovely Esha

I just wanted to let you know that you are a dummy!

November 19 2012 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

you are right and those who insult you seem to not understand your point (or are just so indoctrinated by the propaganda that they can not accept anything but that single view of the world). The fact is, the universe is heating and not just the earth. The same way we are seeing global heating and other weather related anomalies, the same is being seen on other planets and even in the "space" around us. Certainly polution is bad, certainly chemicals unleashed in the air, land and sea is bad, certainly there are very negative effects from the industrial revolution...but I agree, this is not the cause of the change in weather patterns on other planets or in the Universe itself...and so too, I do not think that this has played such a detrimental role on our own weather patterns either. Though, i still think we should clean up our act as humans...I believe this more because of the harms it is haveing on humans than on the planet.

November 19 2012 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ted Smith


November 19 2012 at 10:12 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
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