Feb. 21 - Images of a spectacular solar flare that leaped off the sun's surface in July last year, have been compiled into a video revealing a rarely seen phenomenon called coronal rain. The compilation was produced from images collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a space-based craft designed specifically to study the sun. Rob Muir reports.
On July 19 last year, the sun put on a display more spectacular than most, in a phenomenon rarely seen by scientists. Eruptive events on the sun can vary between simple solar flares that remain within its atmosphere, to coronal mass ejections that send clouds of electromagnetic energy into space. But on occasion, the charged particles in a solar flare will run into the sun's invisible magnetic field, illuminating the lines of magnetism as they twist and spiral around the sun. The phenomenon this collision produces is called coronal rain, and on July 19 last year, it was captured in vivid detail by NASA's space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory. This video was compiled from images taken over approximately 22 hours, each second corresponding to six minutes of real time. The plasma within the flare acts as a tracer allowing scientists a rare opportunity to observe the movement of magnetic fields on the sun. The Solar Dynamics Observatory was launched by NASA in February, 2010. Equipped with four sophisticated telescopes, its mission to record solar activity is set to last until 2015. NASA says so, far, the mission has been a stunning success.