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.

2009 May 31
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
the highest resolution version available.

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

Explanation: How can gas float above the Sun? Twisted magnetic fields arching from the solar surface can trap ionized gas, suspending it in huge looping structures. These majestic plasma arches are seen as prominences above the solar limb. In 1999 September, this dramatic and detailed image was recorded by the EIT experiment on board the space-based SOHO observatory in the light emitted by ionized Helium. It shows hot plasma escaping into space as a fiery prominence breaks free from magnetic confinement a hundred thousand kilometers above the Sun. These awesome events bear watching as they can affect communications and power systems over 100 million kilometers away on Planet Earth. Recently, our Sun has been unusually quiet.

Free Lecture: An APOD editor will review great space images this Friday in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Tomorrow's picture: slip sliding away

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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