A close-up view of the Sun's edge shows vast loop structures made of superheated plasma, just one of which is the size of several Earths. These loops can have a wide range of temperatures, many reaching several million degrees Kelvin.
The upper one of a pair of new, solar active regions that just rotated into view offered a beautiful profile view of those cascading loops spiraling above it (Jan. 15-16, 2012) following a solar flare eruption. With its ability to capture the Sun in amazing detail, SDO observed it all in extreme ultraviolet light. This particular video clip used an image every minute to present the motion.
A January 23rd solar flare was rated an M9-class eruption, which placed it just short of being an X-class flare, the most powerful type of solar storm. M-class sun storms are powerful but mid-range, while C-class flares are weaker. The sun's activity waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle. The star is currently in the midst of Solar Cycle 24, and activity is expected to continue ramping up toward the solar maximum in 2013.
Credit: NASA SDO