Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 April 3
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A Twisted Solar Eruptive Prominence
Credit: SOHO Consortium, EIT, ESA, NASA

Explanation: A huge eruptive prominence is seen moving out from our Sun in this condensed half-hour time-lapse sequence. Ten Earths could easily fit in the "claw" of this seemingly solar monster. This large prominence, though, is significant not only for its size, but its shape. The twisted figure eight shape indicates that a complex magnetic field threads through the emerging solar particles. Recent evidence of differential rotation inside the Sun might help account for the surface explosion. The sequence was taken early this year by the Sun-orbiting SOHO satellite. Although large prominences and energetic Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are relatively rare, they are occurring more frequently now that we are near the Solar Maximum, a time of peak sunspot and solar activity in the eleven-year solar cycle.

Tomorrow's picture: A Galaxy's Red Glow

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.