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Solar Flare Is Beautiful, Terrifying in 4K High Def Video by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

From Earth, the Sun generally just looks like a big bright ball, but there’s a lot of activity up there that we don’t notice with our puny human eyes—especially because it’s not exactly wise to look directly at the Sun. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, however, was designed to do just that (even at wavelengths we can’t see at all) and it captures some breathtaking views of the star that makes Earth’s habitability possible.

As beautiful as this ultraviolet light imagery is, it’s also a bit of a reminder of just how violent the Sun—or any star—can be if you’re not quite at the perfect distance, like we are. The flare in the video might not look impressively large in comparison to the Sun, but when you consider that our home star is so huge that several Earths would fit inside the area of the disturbance, it can be pretty unsettling to remember just how much we’re at the mercy of a giant ball of nuclear fusion.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center notes,

On April 17, 2016, an active region on the sun’s right side released a mid-level solar flare, captured here by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. This solar flare caused moderate radio blackouts, according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. Scientists study active regions – which are areas of intense magnetism – to better understand why they sometimes erupt with such flares. This video was captured in several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light that is typically invisible to our eyes, but is color-coded in SDO images for easy viewing.

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Dan is a video game modding hobbyist and secret ninja who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa Brown, and his dog, Liz Lemon, both of whom are the best.