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You May Be Able to See Twisted Towers of Fire During Eclipse

Captain Plasma

Amateur and professional astronomers alike are roiling with excitement for the total solar eclipse that'll fall over North America on April 8.

An extra reason to try and catch the rare solar event, according to an excellent new piece in Space.com: because our star is currently near the peak of its 11-year solar cycle, during the "totality" of the eclipse — the moment when the Sun is completely covered, plunging the world below into a strange darkness — it's likely that you'll be able to see gigantic towers of explosive plasma leaping off its surface.

"If we get lucky, a [coronal mass ejection] will present itself as a twisted, spiral-like structure, high in the atmosphere in the Sun," National Solar Observatory solar physicist Ryan French told Space.com.

Sun Police

It's not a sure thing that there'll be a giant coronal mass ejection or flare during the brief window of totality, French told Space.com. Whether they'll be small or epic eruptions that float away from the Sun's surface, though, remains to be seen.

"There have been a few examples of such prominence eruptions over the past few months, each of which would have given a great show if occurring during a total solar eclipse," French told the site. "But it's worth noting that the eclipse will still provide a view of stationary, non-eruptive prominences; they'll just be smaller and closer to the sun's surface than they would be mid-eruption."

Be safe, though. Experts have warned that the market is being flooded with fake eclipse glasses that could cause permanent vision damage — like one unfortunate woman who stared at a previous eclipse and ended up with a permanent crescent in her vision.

More on the eclipse: Mind-Bending View of a Solar Eclipse from the Stratosphere