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Massive plasma eruption on the Sun shot 2.2 million miles into space

Published Mar 11th, 2022 11:20PM EST
huge solar eruption from bright sun on dark background
Image: lukszczepanski/Adobe

The Sun can be one of the most beautiful sites visible from our little planet. Other times it can be terrifying. Back in February, the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter captured an image of a giant solar eruption. During the eruption, the Sun literally belched hot plasma 2.2 million miles into space.

This giant solar eruption sent particles over 2 million miles into space

Solar Orbiter captures giant solar eruptionImage source: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team/ESA & NASA

The eruption took place on February 15 and the ESA says that it extended millions of miles into space. Luckily, the belching plasma stream isn’t racing towards the Earth. The ESA says there isn’t a signature from the eruption on the solar disc facing its Solar Orbiter spacecraft. As such, it most likely originated from the opposite side of the Sun. No matter its point of origin, the spewing plasma is currently heading away from the Earth.

The giant solar eruption is a stark reminder of how volatile the Sun can be. The event was captured as a solar prominence spread out from the solar ball. Solar prominences are often associated with coronal mass ejections from the Sun’s surface. Sometimes they occur facing the Earth and it wreaks havoc on our technology, and the planet itself.

The Solar Orbiter captured the image using its Full Sun Imager. This instrument is part of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI). The FSI provides the ESA and NASA with a full look at the Sun whenever it passes close enough to the solar disc.

You can check out a side-by-side view of the eruption captured by the ESA’s Solar Orbiter above, as well as a video captured by the ESA/NASA SOHO Satellite. The video on the right shows the giant solar eruption without the glare of the Sun’s surface.

Could a solar flare destroy Earth?

artist illustration of planet burningImage source: MoVille / Adobe

We already know the dangers of a massive asteroid hitting Earth, and NASA is working to combat that with D.A.R.T. What if that giant solar eruption was directed at the Earth? Could a solar flare destroy our planet?

While they might sound scary, solar flares aren’t likely to destroy the planet. Most that we have experienced in the past have simply led to geomagnetic storms. Scientists also call them solar storms sometimes. They occur when the Sun’s charged particles make it the over 92-million-mile trek between the Earth and the Sun. Ultimately, these storms can cause issues with GPS signals and other electronics, though.

If large enough, a giant solar eruption could do a lot of damage to modern-day technology. Our power grids and large-scale internet cables could be victims of the damaging plasma of the Sun’s flare-ups. Because of this, it is so important for NASA and the ESA to keep such a close eye on the Sun. Scientists also say the Sun won’t explode for another five billion years, so at least we have that going for us.

The Sun will continue to be an unpredictable and massive ball of energy. This most recent flareup is a stark reminder that we’ll need to stay vigilant and continue monitoring the Sun for any dangerous solar eruptions in the future.

Joshua Hawkins fell in love with writing and technology at a young age. Eventually he decided to combine the two and started writing about video games, the latest tech, and all the cool gadgets he could find. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.