NASA films cascading magnetic arches on our sun. What is that? (+video)
The video looks a bit like swirling molten gold. And it's mesmerizing.
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NASA captured mesmerizing video of a solar eruption that set off a cascade reaction over the weekend. It's gorgeous for sure, is it?
NASA's explanation is relatively brief. "A dark solar filament above the sun's surface became unstable and erupted." The statement goes on to explain that a small eruption likely triggered the collapse of the filament in a sort of domino effect.
But what is a solar filament?
Solar filaments appear as dark lines or curves in images of the sun, but they're actually arcs of plasma, or ionized gas. These gigantic arches are also called coronal loops. The loops are the sun's magnetic field lines when filled with plasma. A powerful electric current runs along these lines in the plasma.
In the video, "The arches of solar material appear to glow as they emit light in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, highlighting the charged particles spinning along the sun's magnetic field lines," NASA writes. So the swirling vision is a result of that charged gas.
Because the video captures the dynamic surface of the sun in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths invisible to the human eye, NASA's video has been colored bronze.
Another phenomenon, solar flares, occurs when these magnetic loops reconnect. Reconnection is when two parts of the loop touches and part of the loop past that spot breaks off. A flash of brightness can be seen during such a flare as plasma is ejected.
Check out what a solar flare looks like in multiple wavelengths:
The mesmerizing view of cascading magnetic arches was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to observe the sun. The SDO satellite is part of NASA's Living with a Star program to better understand the mysterious dynamics of the sun.
Check out more spectacular images of our star in the gallery The sun: what a star!