A fiery 'ballet' on the sun

NASA released images and video of a fiery explosion that occurred on the sun on New Year's Eve. The eruption was 20 times the size of Earth.

On New Year's Eve, NASA recorded a "graceful" solar eruption on the sun. Official agency images and a 17-second video show the volcanic-like explosion coming from one spot on the sun's surface. The blast was reminiscent of a magical cauldron, as the fiery light twisted and danced before receding.

Video: Solar ballet on the sun

The official NASA website described the occurrence as "magnetic forces [driving] the flow of plasma, but without sufficient force to overcome the sun's gravity, much of the plasma fell back into the sun." This most recent "solar ballet," as the Solar Dynamics Observatory called it, was a four-hour event.

Another image shows the Earth superimposed onto a still of the solar eruption, noting that the length of the flare is about 20 times the diameter of our planet, which measures about 7,900 miles in diameter.

Dr. David Hathaway, a solar physicist at the Marshall Space Flight Center, said solar eruptions "are clearly associated with sheared and twisted magnetic fields."

While a mesmerizing sight, NASA deemed this is a relatively minor eruption. In June, a post related to NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope stated that solar eruptions "are on the rise as the sun progresses toward the peak of its roughly 11-year-long activity cycle, now expected in mid-2013."

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