Video: NASA keeps watch as the sun flares up

This morning the sun released billions of tons of matter in an explosion that is known as a large coronal mass ejection (CME.) Apparently the violent eruption mushroomed up and then landed back, appearing to cover almost half of the solar surface. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) caught this spectacular image of the explosion at 1:41 a.m. Scientists believe that CMEs erupt when two magnetic fields—oppositely directed—come up against one another.

According to NASA particles from this eruption are moving at 1,400 km/s and may reach the Earth’s magnetic field during the evening of June 8th or 9th. If you are at a high latitude, and want to keep your eye to the sky, you might catch a glimpse of auroras. These can be striking shades of green and blue light moving across the night sky, also known as aurora borealis or the northern lights.

The SDO’s mission is to observe the sun for five years (it launched February 2010.) The ultimate goal of the observatory is to help scientists better understand the sun’s influence on the Earth, specifically the sun’s magnetic energy and the cause and subsequent effect of CMEs.

Photo credit NASA/SDO

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