A solar whip extends from the sun's surface (Photo : NASA )
Radiation from a 500,000 mile 'solar' whip is set to reach Earth sometime today according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), giving many in North America the opportunity to view the Aurora Borealis. Video of the event was released by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) team, showing footage of a long solar filament in an arc on the sun's surface.
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A solar whip happens when a loop of plasma called a solar filament erupts and extends many miles into space, and occurs in the time span of about one day. According to the Mail Online, the all videos and pictures of the event are from August 6th to August 8th.
A solar filament is a cool cloud of solar material that is tethered to the sun by unstable magnetic forces. To be clear, solar whips are not solar flares. Flares are intense bursts of radiation caused by a release of magnetic energy, and result in bright spots on the sun's surface. Whips are also called solar prominences.
Holly Gilbert, a Goddard solar physicist, states: "It is not uncommon for prominence material to drain back to the surface as well as escape during an eruption."
"In fact, it's all a little strange when all of the mass escapes. Prominences are large structures, so once the magnetic fields supporting the mass are stretched out so that they are more vertical, it allows an easy path for some of the mass to drain back down," she adds.
In a statement, NASA explains that "Towards the end of the video part of the filament seems to break away, but its basic length and shape seem to have remained mostly intact."
Solar Whip Video