Published On: Sun, Aug 11th, 2019

NASA shock: Terrifying moment Sun shockwave sends particles flying | Science | News

NASA has released its first footage of an interplanetary shockwave on the Sun. The NASA video shows particles flying away from the Sun, likely created by a fast stream of solar wind overtaking a slower stream. The charged particles can be seen hurtling from the side of the Sun before spreading out into the solar system.

The incredible footage was captured by NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS), a project which has spent the last four years using high-resolution instruments to capture never-before-seen images.

NASA explained: “Interplanetary shocks are a type of collisionless shock — ones where particles transfer energy through electromagnetic fields instead of directly bouncing into one another.

“These collisionless shocks are a phenomenon found throughout the universe, including in supernovae, black holes and distant stars.

“MMS studies collisionless shocks around Earth to gain a greater understanding of shocks across the universe.”

READ MORE: Astronomer warns Earth will boil as the Sun grows brighter and bigger

The interplanetary shock was captured by NASA’s MMS on January 8, 2018.

NASA tweeted the footage, posting: “Shocking!

“Using special instruments to see what no other spacecraft can, our Magnetospheric Multiscale mission made the 1st high-resolution measurements of an interplanetary shock made of particles & electromagnetic waves launched by the Sun.”

One user commented: “Awesome picture.”

Another said: “Wow! Amazing, incredible and kind of scary.”

A third marvelled: “Mind blown…”

NASA added: “Due to timing of the orbit and instruments, MMS is only in place to see interplanetary shocks about once a week, but the scientists are confident that they’ll find more.

“Particularly now, after seeing a strong interplanetary shock, MMS scientists are hoping to be able to spot weaker ones that are much rarer and less well understood. Finding a weaker event could help open up a new regime of shock physics.”

According to NASA, the Sun’s expansion is caused by the rapid burning of helium at the core, which causes surface layers of the star to expand.

As the star expands, the habitability zone around the star shrinks, making it harder for life to exist. This process of expansion has been going since the Sun formed 4.5 billion years ago.

Thankfully, in the last four billion years the Sun has barely grown by 20 percent “at most”. NASA said: “It will not grow by much more than another factor of a few for the next six billion years, but at that distant time, it will make a rapid transition to a red giant phase and its outer surface will expand by several hundred times to perhaps the orbit of Venus.

“Astronomers have searched for short term changes in the radius of the Sun, but have not been able to find much reliable evidence that the sun’s diameter is changing, at least over times as short as the solar cycle.”

Just like every other star in the universe, the Sun will eventually run out of fuel to burn and die. As the star approaches its final days, it will start to swell into a Red Giant and consume Mercury, Venus and maybe even Earth.

After that, the Sun will shrink down to an incredibly hot and dense core known as a White Dwarf. Thankfully, NASA does not expect this to happen for another six to six-and-a-half billion years.

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