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
- If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- There's a number of reasons the grammar of this headline could infuriate you
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How to be more satisfied with your life, according to science
- How to flirt, according to science
- The Warren Buffett formula: How you can get smarter
- The contentious policy at the heart of Cliven Bundy's armed standoff with the government
- 7 ways to quickly become a master at anything
Subscribe to the Week