NASA Video Shows Solar Flare, Coronal Rain

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 25, 2013 10:22 AM EST

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States released over the weekend a video of the Sun's solar flare that occurred on July 12, 2012 and the spectacular coronal rain display that followed.

The video was taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument onboard.

It featured an eruption on the Sun that produced the solar flare which sent out light and radiation. Then it was followed by a coronal mass ejection which shot off solar materials to the right of the Sun into space. Finally, the coronal rain occurred.

Within the next few hours that lasted about one day, the hot plasma in the corona was forced to move and showed up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms and outlined the fields as it slowly fell back to the Sun's surface. The plasma served as a tracer to help savants watch the solar dance of magnetic fields.

The solar event happened between 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT.

The Smithsonian Magazine said that the solar flare could lead to an alteration in solar that could set off on Earth a geomagnetic storm which has the potential to short the circuitry on satellite and disrupt the planet's telecommunications infrastructure on a global level.

However, the magazine said that such a grim scenario has little chance of occurrence given the current set of sunspots, while SpaceWeather.com estimated there is only a 15 per cent chance of X-class flares, the minimum level needed to disable satellites and Earth-based communications technologies.

The last time such a solar event happened was September 1859, causing the northern and southern lights or aurorae to be visible around the world and resulting in telegraph malfunctions as it sparked and caught fire and operators received electrical shocks.

NASA launched the solar observatory in February 2011. It orbits at 22,000 miles above Earth and using three instruments take photos of the sun every 10 seconds. The images taken have 10 times the resolution of an HD television.

Even without the expensive and high-tech equipment of NASA, ordinary people can view and take good shots of the Sun without damaging their eyes by using a standard telescope, a good filter and a webcam. Detailed instructions on how this set-up works could be found in Popularmechanics.com (http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/telescopes/how-to-stare-at-the-sun-15131008?src=rss).

Tips on how to make a photographic solar filter are found in this video.

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