NASA Captures Epic Eruption From Surface of Sun

NASA Captures Epic CME Eruption
The sun experienced a huge coronal mass ejection (CME) on Aug. 31, 2012, and NASA captured several images.

From here on Earth, the Sun looks remarkably consistent, continuously bathing our planet in light and heat without much change from year to year, let alone day to day. In reality, it’s anything but calm, as this incredibleNASA photo of a coronal mass ejection (CME) shows.

A CME is a huge burst of stellar material and magnetic fields from the surface of the sun — essentially what happens when the sun “burps.” They’re often associated with solar flares, but they can happen separately, too.

This particular CME occurred on Aug. 31, 2012 at 4:36 p.m Eastern Time. At its fastest, the burst shot out into space at more than 900 miles per second. Although this particular CME didn’t travel directly toward Earth (God help us if it did — a CME can be very destructive to things in orbit, like satellites), it did affect Earth’s magnetosphere, creating an aurora that was visible last night, Sept. 3.

NASA captured these spectacular images of the CME as well as the aurora, posting high-res versions on the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Flickr feed. Let us know what you think of the pics in the comments.

Epic CME, Full Sun View

Although the CME didn’t impact Earth, it affected the magnetosphere, creating an aurora on Sept. 3.

Epic CME, Overaly

Here’s an overlay of the CME imagery, using two different wavelengths of light.

Full Sun Overlay

The full sun pic as before, with the overaly.

CME in Ultraviolet

No, NASA wasn’t playing with Photo Booth — this is a quad shot at four different ultraviolet wavelengths.

Close-Up

Another shot of the CME.

Aurora Over Yukon

Here’s what the Aurora looked like over Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon territory the night of Sept. 3.

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