The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, posted
his favorite astronomy images of 2012 and they are awesome. They're like a mini-Total Perspective Vortex that show just how puny we humans really are. Take, for instance, this burst of plasma which is big, really big.
On Aug. 31, 2012, the Sun had a major hissy fit: A vast arch of material was lifted up off the surface by the Sun’s powerful magnetic field. Sometimes these arches collapse back down, but this one erupted, blasting literally hundreds of millions of tons of superheated plasma into space at a speed of 1,400 kilometers per second (900 miles per second)—over a thousand times faster than a rifle bullet. The scale of this is crushing—the arch was 300,000 kilometers (200,000) miles) across, 25 times larger than the Earth. As we near the peak of the Sun’s magnetic cycle, we’ll be seeing even more activity like this in the coming months.