NASA captures solar ‘canyon of fire’ (video)

26 Oct 2013

Image via NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

US space agency NASA has photographed and released a video of the eruption of a 321,869-kilometre long filament of solar material that tore through the sun’s atmosphere and left behind what resembles a canyon of fire on its surface.

“The canyon traces the channel where magnetic fields held the filament aloft before the explosion,” NASA said.

The sun is made up of plasma, particles that are so hot their electrons have boiled off, creating a charged gas that is interwoven with magnetic fields.  

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured the image of the eruption on 29-30 September.

The SOD constantly observes the sun in various wavelengths. Different wavelengths help capture different aspects of events in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.  

In the video below, the red images help highlight plasma at temperatures of 49,982°C and are good for observing filaments as they form and erupt.

They yellow images depict temperatures of 555,537°C and help in the observation of material running along the sun’s magnetic field lines. These are seen in the video in what NASA describes as an arcade of loops across the area of the eruption.

The browner images at the beginning of the video show material at temperatures of 999,982°C, and it is here where the ‘canyon of fire’ imagery is most obvious.

“By comparing this with the other colours, one sees that the two swirling ribbons moving farther away from each other are, in fact, the footprints of the giant magnetic field loops, which are growing and expanding as the filament pulls them upward,” NASA said.



Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic