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.

2005 November 9
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A Solar Prominence from SOHO
Credit : SOHO - EIT Consortium, ESA, NASA

Explanation: What happened to the Sun? Nothing very unusual: the strange-looking solar appendage on the lower left is actually just a spectacular looking version of a common solar prominence. A solar prominence is a cloud of solar gas held above the Sun's surface by the Sun's magnetic field. Pictured above in 2002 October, NASA's Sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft imaged an impressively large prominence hovering over the surface, informally dubbed a flame. Over 40 Earths could line up along the vast length of the fireless flame of hovering 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: tow-away zone

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