These exquisite images are a must see at full resolution. Space imagery from NASA’s Conceptual Image Lab. An elegant interaction powers the sun, producing the light and energy that makes life possible. That interaction is called fusion, and it naturally occurs when two atoms are heated and compressed so intensely that their nuclei merge into a new element. This process often leads to the creation of a photon, the particles of light that are released from the sun.
However, before exiting our star, each photon must first undergo a long journey. Over the course of 40,000 years it will be absorbed by other atoms and emitted repeatedly until reaching the sun’s surface. Once there, the photons stream out, illuminating Earth, the solar system and beyond. The number released from the surface every second is so vast that it is more than a billion billion times greater than the number of grains of sand on our planet.
This movie takes us on a space weather journey from the center of the sun to solar eruptions in the sun’s atmosphere all the way to the effects of that activity near Earth. The view starts in the core of the sun where atoms fuse together to create light and energy. Next we travel toward the sun’s surface, watching loops of magnetic fields rise up to break through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.
In the corona is where we witness giant bursts of radiation and energy known as solar flares, as well as gigantic eruptions of solar material called coronal mass ejections or CMEs. The movie follows one of these CME’s toward Earth where it impacts and compresses Earth’s own protective magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere. As energy and particles from the sun funnel along magnetic field lines near Earth, they ultimately produce aurora at Earth’s poles.