Picture of the Week: A Spectacular Solar Eruption | Science | Smithsonian
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Picture of the Week: A Spectacular Solar Eruption

Earlier this week, a NASA telescope captured one of the most stunning solar flares in years

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Monday's solar eruption at its peak moment. Photo courtesy of NASA

On Monday, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory telescope recorded an awesome sight: one of the most visually spectacular solar eruptions in years. The mass of super-hot gases and charged particles exploded from the east limb of the sun, which is the left side for observers on earth. The false-color image above captures the prominence at its peak, showing charged particles from the sun’s magnetic field rising up from the surface.

Solar prominences occur when these charged particles interact with the sun’s plasma, and are often associated with solar flares, which are momentary brightenings of the sun’s surface. The flare that accompanied this prominence rated an M1.7 on the Richter scale for solar flares, making it a medium-size event, but since it was not aimed toward Earth, it has had no effect on satellites or air travel.

As captured in the video below, some of the particles did not have enough force to break away from the sun, and can be seen falling back toward its surface afterward. Have a look:

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