A massive solar tsunami was captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft, the space agency reported Friday. The Sun erupted with two prominence eruptions on Friday, November 16, 2012. The prominences occurred one after the other. The first sun eruption took place at 1 a.m. EST and the other solar event came right on its heels at 5 a.m. EST.
“The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas made of electrically charged hydrogen and helium,” officials with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center wrote in a description of the event. “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.”
NASA noted that a prominence is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun’s surface. Prominences can extend hundreds of thousands of miles into space but scientists still aren’t sure exactly how and why they form.
NASA said that the solar tsunami was captured on camera by the space agency’s Solar Dynamic Observatory in the 304 wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. Despite the size of this eruption, the space agency confirmed that the particle clouds do not appear to be heading in the direction of Earth.
Although the particle clouds from this solar tsunami don’t appear to be headed toward Earth, past solar storms have disrupted radio communications on our planet. In February 2011, an X-class solar flare, the most powerful type, sent a giant wave of charged particles toward Earth.
“There were immediate effects on radio communication and GPS systems right as this flare occurred,” Phil Chamberlin, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, said at the time, according to Space.com.
Space.com noted that the sun is in the middle of an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle, which means that increased solar activity is likely for the time being.
A video of the giant solar tsunami can be viewed here.