The 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
- 8 secrets to steal from power networkers
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Mitt Romney is perfectly poised for a comeback in 2016
- Why is the West so afraid of Islam?
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The Nazi smart bomb that inspired China's most dangerous weapon
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- How to make classic pulled pork
- The crusade against Iraq War supporters has forgotten someone: Hillary Clinton
- How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children
Subscribe to the Week