"On July 19, 2012, the Sun produced a medium-size solar flare," NASA says on this new video captured by its Solar Dynamics Observatory, "what occurred with the flare was amazing." It's true. It's amazing. Fire started to fall down like rain—a hell waterfall many times the size of planet Earth. You have to watch this uncanny document for yourself.
Scott Wiessinger—Helio and Astrophysics Video Producer at NASA Goddard Space Center—told me in an email that "this is a single event that unfolded over 21 and half hours. It looks pretty cool and the fact that it is plasma condensing onto magnetic field lines makes it even more amazing—at least to me! I even added the Earth for scale to remind viewers how unimaginably big this stuff is."
What you are watching here is called coronal rain:
Hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, and outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.
According to NASA, this unique phenomenon combines three out of three possible sun events into one:
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.
It's just unbelievable—as in I really can't believe this is happening out there. There's no need to look out of our own solar system to realize how lucky just to be alive. You just have to look up to that big ball of light in the sky. [NASA]