NASA has released stunning new footage of a plasma rain storm on the surface of the sun, the first footage ever obtained of the event.
The video, filmed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft — which keeps an eye on the sun for interesting activity — shows a massive stream of plasma bombarded the surface of sun from above.
Last July, Space.com revealed NASA had discovered solar flare eruptions on the surface of the sun that had caused large plasma loops to form above the burning star. On July 19, 2012, a video of the eruptions from the space agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory was released. The four-minute video showed the solar eruptions on the surface of the sun in addition to the formation of the plasma loops.
Plasma loops are most often referred to as “coronal rain.” The name comes from rain-like appearance of the plasma in the sun’s outer atmosphere, which is known as the corona. Hot plasma in the corona cools and condense salong strong magnetic fields in the region, creating the loops, NASA officials explained.
According to the space agency’s officials, these magnetic fields are the key to the plasma’s rain-like pattern. “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,” officials said. As NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center explained in a written statement, “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.”
The eruption captured on video is especially important. According to NASA, it combined three out of three possible events: a solar flare, an coronal mass ejection, and coronal rain.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft was sent to space over three years ago on February 11, 2010. The spacecraft was launched for a five-year mission to watch and observe the sun in our solar system. The new video of coronal rain on the sun was released to commemorate the third anniversary of the spacecraft’s launch date.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory’s main mission is to keep track of solar flares on the surface of the sun as well as other weather phenomena that may take place. In the past two years, the observatory spacecraft has reportedly taken over 100 million pictures of various events happening on the sun.