UNITED STATES: An Arizona professional astro-photographer, Andrew McCarthy, took a stunning ‘time-lapse’ image consisting of stacks of thousands of images. It revealed a mesmerising and massive plume of plasma shooting out of the sun.
The ethereal ejection, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), extended into space and away from Earth for a distance of over 1 million miles from the solar surface.
McCarthy shared the captivating view on the social media platform Reddit on September 25 in the subreddit r/space. The CME was a G-1 class minor solar storm, according to SpaceWeather.com.
The G-1 class is the lowest category on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geomagnetic Storm Scale.
McCarthy revealed on Reddit that it was “the largest CME” he had ever witnessed. He added that the plasma was initially contained in a large loop connected to the Sun’s surface, known as prominence, and then broke off and streamed into space at around 100,000 mph (161,000 km/h).
McCarthy believes the plasma plumes are likely to get progressively larger and more common as the sun heads into a stage of solar maximum that lasts around seven years.
The original images were almost fully white because the exposure time of each image was very short. In the digitally altered photo, the sun’s surface and CME appear orange as McCarthy added the orange while compositing the image to provide contrast between individual structures on the sun’s surface and highlight the plasma plume.
In reality, the sun’s surface and CME have a pinkish-red hue, which is known as hydrogen-alpha or H-alpha light.
The photo is a false-colour composite time-lapse image that was stacked from hundreds of thousands of images captured over a period of six hours.
Thirty to eighty individual images were captured every second and were stored in a file that was almost 800 Gigabytes, or 0.8 Terabytes in size. The combined images showed the CME in extreme detail.