NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, captured images of a giant ropelike, extended filament of solar material Sept. 30. The images of the filament were captured in extreme ultraviolet light by SDO, which watches the sun 24 hours a day.
The observatory examined the massive filament for several days as it rotated around with the sun, NASA reported. The filament is so big that if it were straightened out, it would reach almost across the whole sun, about 1 million miles or 100 times the size of Earth.
“Filaments are clouds of solar material suspended above the sun by powerful magnetic forces. Though notoriously unstable, filaments can last for days or even weeks,” NASA said in a statement.
According to the U.S. space agency, the images were captured in different wavelengths of light so they could highlight material of different temperatures on the sun. Examination of any solar feature in different wavelengths and temperatures aids scientists in learning more about what causes such structures. In addition, it helps them determine what catalyzes irregular giant eruptions out into space.
The SDO also captured images of a mid-level solar flare, which peaked Thursday at 3:01 p.m. EDT. According to NASA, it was classified as an M7.3 flare. An M-class flare is one-tenth as powerful as the most powerful flares, which are designated X-class flares.
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“Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation,” NASA said. “Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.”