Looking more science fiction than just straight science, an amazing tentacle-like eruption on the face of the sun has been captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
A solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk) is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun’s surface. Prominences are anchored to the Sun’s surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun’s hot outer atmosphere, called the corona. A prominence forms over timescales of about a day, and stable prominences may persist in the corona for several months, looping hundreds of thousands of miles into space. Scientists are still researching how and why prominences are formed.
The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas comprised of electrically charged hydrogen and helium. The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma
Measuring half a million miles long and visible over two days in August, this “solar whip” could wrap around our humble planet roughly twenty times. But the chances of this tentacle-like wonder being attached to some kind of malicious molten-based alien is extremely unlikely.
“Filaments are simply cooler clouds of solar material that are tethered above the sun’s surface by unstable magnetic forces,” NASA
The video was shot from August 6 to 8, and shows the filament as a darker strand that has been in view for several days.
Estimates from NOAA space weather prediction center suggests that a cloud of radiation from the solar whip will reach Earth. The effects will be a minor to moderate geomagnetic storm, which will bring the northern lights to parts of North America — but more important, no alien invasion.
Van Gogh-esque aurora over Whitehorse, Yukon, on September 3, 2012