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.

2004 March 30
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A Prominent Solar Prominence from SOHO
Credit: SOHO - EIT Consortium, ESA, NASA

Explanation: One of the most spectacular solar sights is a prominence. A solar prominence is a cloud of solar gas held above the Sun's surface by the Sun's magnetic field. Last month, NASA's Sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft imaged an impressively large prominence hovering over the surface, pictured above. The Earth would easily fit under the hovering curtain of hot gas. A quiescent prominence typically lasts about a month, and may erupt in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) expelling hot gas into the Solar System. Although somehow related to the Sun's changing magnetic field, the energy mechanism that creates and sustains a Solar prominence is still a topic of research.

Tomorrow's picture: cygnus starfield

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