Sun's Surface Capture Just Before Massive CME Explosion

First Posted: Feb 15, 2013 03:15 PM EST

A new refined image of magnetic loops on the sun's surface, captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was released by the Space Agency. It has been processed to highlight the edges of each loop to make the structure more clear.

The image (Blended 131 Angstrom and 171 Angstrom images of July 19, 2012 flare and CME) is depicting one moment in a series of loops, known as flux rope, that allowed scientists to discern the timing of a flux rope's formation for the first time. This was important to confirm which theory is correct about how eruptions on the sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are formed.

These massive explosions on the Sun eject several billion tons of solar plasma into space, which occasionally hit Earth as well, although deflected by the strong magntosphere shield of our planet. The pattern observed supported a theory that solar scientists had long thought to be responsible - the formation of something termed a flux rope as magnetic field lines in the Sun's corona began to twist about, generating a coil of the hottest plasma on the Sun.

The flux rope on 18 July was seen to form following an initial relatively small blast of light spotted in that area of the Sun. The flare was not accompanied by a CME, as is commonly the case, which allowed the observation of the developments in detail.

Just eight hours later, on 19 July, there was another flare in the same region and the flux rope's link to the Sun was severed, allowing the magnetic fields to escape into space and the eruption in a massive CME.

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