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Monday, September 3, 2012

It's coming: 500,000 mile long 'solar whip' set to cause magnetic storms on earth

 It is astonishing reminder of just how powerful the sun is.

Nasa today released a new image showing a 'solar whip' on the surface of the sun.

Captured by from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), it shows a very long, whip-like solar filament extending over half a million miles in a long arc above the sun’s surface.

 The filaments are cooler clouds of solar material that are tethered above the sun’s surface by unstable magnetic forces.

The image and video (below), which covers August 6 to 8, 2012 show the filament as a darker strand that has been in view for several days.

'Towards the end of the video part of the filament seems to break away, but its basic length and shape seem to have remained mostly intact,' says Nasa.

The video, which condenses three hours of activity, also reveals the action in dramatic detail in extreme ultraviolet light.

Today it emerged the eruption was so large it will reach earth.

The NOAA spaceweather prediction center estimates that a cloud of radiation from the eruption will reach Earth today.

However, the radiation cloud will only create a minor to moderate geomagnetic storm, bringing the northern lights to parts of North America.

  Nasa says the image is a classic example of a solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk).

This is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun's surface.

Prominences are anchored to the Sun's surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, called the corona.

A prominence forms over timescales of about a day, and stable prominences may persist in the corona for several months, looping hundreds of thousands of miles into space.

However, scientists are still researching how and why prominences are formed.

The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas comprised of electrically charged hydrogen and helium.

The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo.

An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma

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