NASA Releases Stunning Video of 'Fiery Looping Rain on the Sun'

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"Simply amazing," says NASA.

The bubbling tumult of the sun's surface regularly produces some pretty jaw-dropping sights, but it's rare that we get to see something like this -- and in motion to boot.

Last summer, an eruption on the sun's surface scored a solar weather hat trick, racking up all three of the major phenomenon scientists observe: a solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME), and coronal rain, "complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun's atmosphere," NASA explains. The solar flare in the video is not massive, by the sun's standards, but "moderately powerful," as NASA calls it. But what makes the show special is the coronal rain, charged plasma slowly dripping in fiery loops along the sun's magnetic fields. 

NASA's (awesome) Solar Dynamics Observatory watched the whole event unfold, and the mission has now released the above video, showcasing those observations. Though the video seems to play as though in slow motion, it's actually quite sped up, covering a nearly 22-hour period from 12:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. EDT on July 19, 2012. The footage is made up of frames taken once every 12 seconds played at 30 frames per second, meaning that every second of video represents six minutes of real time.

(Also: Bonus craziness! Be sure to check out the 1:10 minute mark for a sense of the size of this thing.)

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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