A photo of a million-mile-long plasma plume erupting from the sun has been captured
By: April Carson
An amazing photo of a huge plume of plasma shooting out of the sun has been captured by an astrophotographer. According to the photographer, the fiery filament, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), stretched into space for more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from the solar surface.
On September 24th, professional astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy captured a beautiful image which he then shared on Reddit's r/space subreddit the very next day. The CME was part of a minor solar storm — G-1 class, the lowest category on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Geomagnetic Storm Scale — and was pointed away from Earth, according to SpaceWeather.com.
Even though the storm posed no threat to our planet, it was still an impressive sight. CMEs are caused when the sun's magnetic field becomes so twisted that it snaps and releases a massive amount of plasma into space. This particular event was particularly long — more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from end to end, according to the European Space Agency's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
McCarthy wrote on Reddit, "The ethereal ejection was 'the most spectacular CME I've ever seen.' At around 100,000 mph (161,000 km/h), the plasma initially formed a big loop connected to the sun's surface, known as a prominence and then broke away and streamed into space.
McCarthy wrote that the photo is a false-color composite time-lapse image, which stacks hundreds of thousands of images captured over a six hour period. Between 30 and 80 individual images were snapped per second and stored in files totaling around 800 gigabytes. The photos were then combined to better show the CME detail.
The resulting image is a mind-blowing example of the power of the sun, and a reminder of how tiny we are in comparison to our star.
The sun and CME appear orange in the photo, but they are not actually that color. The chromosphere (the lowest region of the sun's atmosphere) and CMEs naturally give off hydrogen-alpha, or H-alpha, light which looks pinkish-red to us. However, because each image was taken with a very short exposure time, the originals appeared almost completely white. To create contrast between the elements on the solar surface and to highlight the CME, McCarthy digitally added orange after combining the final picture.
However, as the rest of the picture was not filtered orange, the sun maintains an ominous white halo against the dark space backdrop.
This is one of the most striking images of our sun that I have ever seen. It shows a massive plasma plume erupting from the surface, stretching out for millions of miles. The detail is incredible, and the colors are just beautiful.
Recently, there have been more occurrences of CMEs because the sun is going through a period of increased solar activity called the solar maximum. Solar maxima usually last around seven years, providing many opportunities for people to capture images like this one.
"As we head further into solar maximum, we will see more of these plasma plumes," McCarthy wrote. He added that the plumes are likely to get "progressively larger."
The photographer warned people against trying to observe the sun without proper safety equipment. "Never look directly at the sun with your naked eyes or through any type of optical device," he said. "You will damage your vision."
"Pointing a telescope at the sun can ruin your camera or, even worse, blind you," McCarthy posted on Reddit. The telescope he used to photograph the CME was "specially modified with multiple filters" that allowed him to safely observe and capture images of the event.
Looking at the photo, it's easy to see why McCarthy said the plasma plume is "a beautiful sight." The long, curved tail of plasma extends out from the sun, looking almost like a comet. And, according to McCarthy, this particular plume was about 1 million miles long.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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