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.

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NASA captures rare activity on sun's surface
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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