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Gorgeous new video shows colossal plasma columns dancing on our sun’s surface

Published May 8th, 2017 9:32PM EDT
sun plasma
Image: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA

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The sun — you know, that big, life-giving star that is more or less responsible for our very existence here on Earth — is one of the most fascinating objects in our solar system. Unfortunately, actually observing the sun is rather difficult thanks in no small part to its brightness, which is why we typically have to rely on NASA to deliver the goods. A newly released NASA video shot just days ago does just that, and offers a look at a particularly awe-inspiring phenomenon that we rarely get to see.

In the video, which NASA notes was shot over a 22-hour period but has since been crammed in a 20-second, magnetic fields grab and twist some the sun’s plasma into swirling shapes. The twisting strands of plasma might look pretty small in the video, especially in comparison to the sun’s massive size, but they’re actually extremely long. In fact, the long winding columns of energy are several times longer than the Earth is wide.

The plasma activity was captured by a camera which isolates “extreme ultraviolet light,” and allows much more of the sun’s detail to be seen than would otherwise be possible with a normal lens. NASA points out that this type of activity is rather common thanks to the magnetic forces at work near the star, and as such they’re not anything we here on Earth need to worry about in any way. That being said, it’s still an awesome display of the forces at work within our nearest star.