A fantastic photo of a plasma whip one and a half million kilometers long, flying out of the Sun

(ORDO NEWS) — An astrophotographer captured a hauntingly beautiful image of a massive plume of plasma erupting from the Sun.

The fiery filament, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), has spread into space over 1,600,000 kilometers from the star’s surface, according to the photographer.

The image was captured on September 24 by professional astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy, who shared the stunning view on Reddit.

The CME was part of a minor solar storm – class G-1, the lowest category on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) geomagnetic storm scale – and was heading away from Earth.

The blowout turned out to be “the biggest CME I’ve ever seen,” McCarthy wrote on Reddit. The plasma was initially contained in a large loop connected to the surface of the Sun, known as a prominence, before breaking off and rushing into space at about 161,000 km/h.

McCarthy wrote that the photograph is a false-color composite time-lapse image, aggregating hundreds of thousands of images taken over a six-hour period.

Between 30 and 80 separate images were taken every second, which were then stored in a file that eventually reached about 800 gigabytes in size. The images were then combined to show the KME in great detail.

In the photograph, the surface of the Sun and the CME appear orange, but in reality they are not. The chromosphere (the lowest region of the solar atmosphere) and the CME naturally emit a type of light that appears pinkish red to us and is known as hydrogen-alpha, or H-alpha, light.

But because the exposure time of each image was very short, the original images were almost completely white.

McCarthy digitally added orange in the final image compositing to provide contrast between individual structures on the Sun’s surface and highlight the CME.

However, since the rest of the image has not been filtered with an orange filter, the sun retains an eerie white halo that stands out against the dark background of space.

Why did the Sun suddenly become so active?

CMEs have increased in recent months as the Sun has entered a period of increased solar activity known as solar maximum, which lasts about seven years.

This will give people a lot more options to capture similar images. “We will see more as we move towards solar maximum,” McCarthy wrote. He added that plasma plumes are also likely to “gradually increase”.

The photographer warned people against trying to observe the sun without proper equipment. “Don’t point the telescope at the sun. You will burn your camera, or worse, your eyes.”

He added that the telescope he used to photograph the CME was “specially modified with multiple filters” to safely observe the CME and capture images.


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