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NASA spots a "reluctant" solar eruption

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Saturday, June 28, 2014, 12:24 PM -

NASA sun watchers keep a constant eye on the star at the heart of our solar system.

And now they think they've found the explanation for something unusual (and pretty) they spotted last year.

Specifically, a series of fast puffs on the sun that NASA says "forced" the eruption of a massive solar burst in January 2013.

Here's what one of the jets of solar material looked like, when viewed in three different light wavelengths:

Image: Alzate/SDO

Image: Alzate/SDO

According to findings presented this month by Nathalia Alzate, a solar scientist at Wales' University of Aberystwith, the puffs, taking place over three days, started out at a pace of once every three hours at first. Then, after 12 hours, a much larger eruption began.

"These rapid changes in the magnetic field cause flares, which release a huge amount of energy in a very short time in the form of super-heated plasma, high-energy radiation and radio bursts. The big, slow structure is reluctant to erupt, and does not begin to smoothly propagate outwards until several jets have occurred," Alzate said in a NASA press release Friday.

That's based on images taken from three separate observation points: the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency), the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (both operated by NASA).

The multiple vantage points gave the researchers a 3D view of the events., but Alzate says there's more to be done.

"We still need to understand whether there are shock waves, formed by the jets, passing through and driving the slow eruption, or whether magnetic reconfiguration is driving the jets allowing the larger, slow structure to slowly erupt," Alzate said.


CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Watch as a lightning bolt juuuuuuust misses the man in the video below:


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