NASA captures rare activity on sun's surface

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NASA Captures Plasma Explosion Off Sun's Surface

This isn't the opening shot of a new "Star Trek" film.

You're looking at the surface of the sun. And that's an explosion. Nothing life-threatening, of course. But take another look.

The mass of plasma hovering and twisting over the course of a day until it erupts into space.

NASA explains, "The suspended plasma is being pulled and stretched by competing magnetic forces until something triggers the breakaway."

Note, NASA says this twisted plasma isn't a solar flare.

A NASA spokeswoman tells USA Today it's "material on the sun, doing what it always does, dancing and twisting -- and in this case erupting off the side of the sun."

That is to say, this scene is pretty common. But it wasn't until four years ago -- when the Solar Dynamics Observatory began operations -- that we were able to get this front-row seat.

You might remember last month when we saw a similar "graceful eruption." However, that was labeled as a solar flare.

After that video was released, the Los Angeles Times noted: "While the imagery in the video can be beautiful, such information from [SDO] also helps scientists to understand the movements on the sun's surface that lead to these dramatic, sometimes violent outbursts."

Let's just hope whatever might flare up next month looks just as cool but remains non-violent.

The sun
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NASA captures rare activity on sun's surface
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of the X1.2 class solar flare on Tuesday May 14, 2013. Solar activity continued on Tuesday as the sun emitted a fourth X-class flare from its upper left limb, peaking at 9:48 p.m. EDT. This flare is the 18th X-class flare of the current solar cycle. (AP Photo/NASA)
This blend of two images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar eruption that occurred on May 12, 2013. One image shows light in the 171-angstrom wavelength, the other in 131 angstroms. Scientists say the Mother’s Day solar flare was the strongest of the year and occurred on the side of the sun that faced away from Earth. (AP Photo/NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory)
This July 2012 image taken from video provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows ribbons of plasma and magnetic lines bursting from the sun. Stretching from one active region to another, magnetic field lines cause the looping formations. (AP Photo/Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA)
This image provided by NASA shows the sun releasing a M1.7 class flare associated with a prominence eruption on April, 16, 2012. This image was taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. This visually spectacular explosion occurred on the sun's Northeastern limb (left) and was not Earth directed. (AP Photo/NASA/SDO/AIA)
This false-color image provided by NASA shows a solar flare, lower center, erupting from the sun on Thursday, July 12, 2012. Space weather scientists said there should be little impact to Earth. The flare erupted from a region which rotated into view on July 6, 2012. (AP Photo/NASA)
This handout image provided by NASA shows a solar flare errupting at 7 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, and that is heading toward Earth. An impressive solar flare is heading toward Earth and could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center said the sun erupted Tuesday evening and the effects should start smacking Earth late Wednesday night, close to midnight EST. They say it is the biggest in five years and growing. (AP Photo/NASA)
This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept. 8, 2010 the active region erupted, producing a solar flare and a fantastic prominence. The eruption also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection into space. The eruption was not directed toward any planets. (AP Photo/NASA)
This photograph of the Sun, taken December 19, 1973, by NASA's Skylab 4, shows one of the most spectacular solar flares (upper left) ever recorded, spanning more than 367,000 miles across the solar surface. The photograph was taken in the light of ionized helium by an extreme ultraviolet spectrohelograph instrument. (AP photo/Nasa)
A spectacular eruption on the surface of the Sun on Tuesday, Oct.28, 2003, seen here by NASA's SOHO space satellite, sent charged particles hurling toward Earth on Wednesday, and scientists said the cloud could significantly disrupt communications on Earth and may even hamper firefighting efforts in California.(AP Photo/NASA)
Composite image of multiple solar flares on the sun. (NASA)
This image provided by NASA shows a rare, infrared view of a developing star and its flaring jets taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope showing us what our own solar system might have looked like billions of years ago. In visible light, this star and its surrounding regions are completely hidden in darkness. The image shows a developing sun-like star, called L1157, that is only thousands of years old (for comparison, our solar system is around 4.5 billion years old). (AP Photo/NASA)
This TV image provided by NASA Wednesday March 29, 2006 shows two solar flares seen during the total solar eclipse captured in Turkey's Mediterranean town of Side. The last such eclipse in November 2003 was best viewed from Antarctica, said Alex Young, a NASA scientist involved in solar research. Total eclipses are rare because they require the tilted orbits of the sun, moon and earth to line up exactly so that the moon obscures the sun completely. The next total eclipse will occur in 2008. (AP Photo/NASA)
This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare early Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, the largest in 5 years. The image was was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in extreme ultraviolet light at 131 Angstroms. Scientists say the bursts of radiation hurled by the solar blast were not in the direction of Earth, so there’ll be little impact to satellites and communication systems. (AP Photo/NASA)
IN SPACE - MARCH 6: In this handout from NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a X5.4 solar flare, the largest in five years, erupts from the sun's surface March 6, 2012. According to reports, particles from the flare are suppose to reach earth early March 7, possibly disrupting technology such as GPS system, satellite networks and airline flights. (Photo by NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) via Getty Images)
USA - 2012: Tony Auth illustration of don't walk symbol superimposed over sun throwing out solar flares. (The Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - FEBRUARY 15: In a screen grab taken from a handout timelapse sequence provided by NASA / SDO, a solar spot in the centre of the Sun is captured from which the first X-class flare was emitted in four years on February 14, 2011. The images taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft reveal the source of the strongest flare to have been released in four years by the Sun, leading to warnings that a resulting geo-magnetic storm may cause disruption to communications and electrical supplies once it reaches the earths magnetic field. (Image by NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory via Getty Images)

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