An incredibly stunning solar flare erupted from the sun's surface throwing charged particles and searing plasma millions of miles out into space. The blast was was not directed at the earth and it is unlikely to hit any of the planets in our solar system.
The Elephant’s Trunk nebula, formally known as IC1396A, is a cloud of gas and dust located 2400 light years from Earth in the constellation Cepheus. The Elephant Trunk is part of a larger region of ionized gas illuminated by a nearby massive O-type star (located outside the image to the left). Radiation and winds from this hot star compress and ionize the edges of cloud, resulting in the bright “ionization fronts” seen in this image.
On August 31, 2012 the Sun threw a major tantrum. It started with a vast arc of material towering over its surface, a stream of plasma flowing between two sunspots. Sometimes these collapse back down to the Sun’s surface, but this one exploded, blasting hundreds of millions of tons of material out into space. SDO captured this ridiculously awesome picture of the arc just before it erupted!