he video: Early Tuesday morning, NASA scientists witnessed something they rarely see: An 'epic' solar flare erupting on the surface of the sun, and blasting a billion tons of fiery material away from its surface. (See the video below). But instead of escaping out into space, much of the explosive material was dragged back down to the surface by the sun's gravitational pull, in what is called a coronal rain shower. The explosion dazzled NASA, released levels of radiation not seen since 2006, and covered almost half of the sun's diameter. The resulting radiation may interfere with communications on Earth on Wednesday and Thursday, but NASA says any impact will be "fairly small."
The reaction: "The size and scope of this thing are simply spectacular," says Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy. And what's amazing is that these explosions have the potential to get bigger. Wow, this video "might pass for a CGI [effect] from a summer disaster flick," says Matt Peckham at TIME, but frighteningly, it's our own sun. Eh, "it's not necessarily anything spectacular as far as space weather" goes, says NASA scientist C. Alex Young at the Atlantic Wire. "It's just really, really beautiful." Watch the massive solar flare:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Sorry Belle Knox, porn still oppresses women
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- Watch The Daily Show mock Fox News' confused man-crush on Vladimir Putin
- Why states should stop limiting the alcohol content in your beer
- Religious liberty should be a liberal value, too
- Why is American internet so slow?
- Don't worry: World War III will almost certainly never happen
- 10 things you need to know today: March 8, 2014
Subscribe to the Week