On June 7th at 0641 UT, magnetic fields above sunspot complex 1226-1227 became unstable and erupted. The resulting blast produced an M2-class solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm, and an unbelievable movie:
"It looks like someone kicked a clod of dirt in the air," says solar physicist C. Alex Young of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in a Youtube video. "I've never seen material released in this way before--an amazing, amazing event."
Much of the plasma thrown up by the blast simply fell back to the sun--indeed, that's what makes the footage so dramatic. In the movies you can see blobs of hot gas as large as Earth making bright splashes where they hit the stellar surface. Some plasma, however, reached escape velocity and left the sun in the form of a coronal mass ejection: movie. Traveling faster than 1100 km/s, the CME should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the CME arrives.Credit: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.