June 08, 2011

Solar Flare 2011 Photo: Scientists ‘Never Seen Anything Like This’ (WATCH)

Astronomy lovers caught quite a show Tuesday morning when a massive solar flare streaked across the sun’s surface, sparking a medium-sized minor radiation storm.

If this solar flare (which you can see in the video below) is considered a medium-sized, minor radiation storm, I can’t even imagine what a large, major one would look like.

I have a lack of knowledge in this area (I just like watching the videos and looking at the photos) so I’m going to take a few quotes from the professionals to help explain exactly what went on:

“What you’re seeing here is a solar flare (an enormous explosion of pent-up magnetic energy) coupled with a prominence (a physical eruption of gas from the surface),” says blogger Phil Plait. This event blasted something like a billion tons of material away from the Sun. Note the size of it, too: while it started from a small region on the Sun’s surface, it quickly expanded into a plume easily as big as the Sun itself! I’d estimate its size at well over a million kilometers across. It looks like most of the material fell back down to the Sun’s surface; that’s common, though sometimes such an event manages to blast the material completely away into space.”

Dr. C. Alex Young from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center released this video below, showing the solar flare in action.

Take a look and let us know what you think: