It's easy to take the Sun for granted as we go about our daily lives. After all, most of the majesty and splendor of our closest star is lost to us because we can't just look up and watch it for any length of time (please don't look up and watch it for any length of time).
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So, it's really great that we have NASA watching the Sun for us, so that we get to see amazing things like the 'coronal rain' shown in their latest video release:
Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun's atmosphere, the corona.
On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun's lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays — a phenomenon known as coronal rain.
Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.
Music: "Thunderbolt" by Lars Leonhard, courtesy of artist.
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(Video courtesy: NASA Goddard)
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