Coronal loop shows maelstrom of solar carnage in stunning photo

25 May 2015

Our sun is a giant nuclear reactor that sits there pumping out vast amounts of energy every second, and, sometimes, this is captured by NASA scientists, such as the recent coronal loops exploding from its surface.

The latest incredible images of the sun’s surface have come from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which has been set the very specific task of watching our sun and seeing how its vast quantities of energy get used up and released into its atmosphere.

Since 2005, the satellite has been collecting vast amounts of data every second and in this instance it has caught sight of a phenomenon known as ‘coronal loops’, which are a direct consequence of the twisted solar magnetic flux within the sun, which causes the familiar loops to burst from sunspots on its surface.

To get the stunning image below, the SDO used its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument to capture images of the effect in 10 different wavelengths and they are shown in a blended overlay with the magnetic field, as measured with SDO’s Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager.

The deep blue colour in the image and the orange glow represent the opposite polarities of the magnetic field.

Coronal loops image

Coronal loops image via NASA/SDO

Image of older coronal loops via NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic