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On November 16th, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), captured on tape two spectacular back-to back sun eruptions. Also known as solar prominences, they are large glowing clouds of gas that periodically explode from the Sun's surface.
The first eruption occurred at 1.am EST with the other following within four hours. Both were so large that they expanded beyond the camera view of the SDO. Luckily, neither were aimed toward the Earth and so had very little impact on us.
Solar Prominences are huge arcs of gas that erupt from the surface of the Sun. They begin with an explosion usually above a sunspot, the area where strong magnetic fields poke through the surface of the sun. These spots become unstable and explode, releasing intense amounts of energy - the equivalent of 10 billion hydrogen bombs. Called solar flares they resemble a flash of light and can reach earth within a short 8 minutes. When they hit the two poles, they create beautiful auroras that are often referred to as Northern or Southern lights.
The good news is that these blasts of radiation are blocked by the magnetosphere and atmosphere and therefore, pose no risk to humans. However the protons and other charged particles that follow the flares within about 20 minutes, can be extremely destructive to our satellite systems, GPS tracking devices and power grids.
Though the sun has been relatively peaceful over the last few years, solar storms are not a new phenomenon. They seem to occur regularly every 11 years or so. Since the latest cycle is not expected to peak until 2013, scientists are anticipating more storms in the coming months. Hopefully, they will all be as harmless as this one was, leaving behind nothing in its wake except, stunning pictures.
sources: news.yahoo.com, Solar Prominence,