Scientists witness the formation of a solar flux rope.
On July 18, 2012, scientists were able to watch for the first time the very formation of something they had long theorized was at the heart of many eruptive events on the sun: a flux rope. These magnetic loops form in the sun's atmosphere and are invisible to the naked eye. Using an ultraviolet telescope aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), scientists were able to view these structures as hot plasma traced out their shape just prior to a coronal mass ejection (CME). The observation solved the long-unanswered question whether flux ropes form before or during a CME eruption. Watch the videos to see how a flux rope forms and to learn more about this event.