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.

2011 March 7

A Solar Prominence Eruption from SDO
Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

Explanation: One of the most spectacular solar sights is an erupting prominence. Two weeks ago, NASA's Sun-orbiting Solar Dynamic Observatory spacecraft imaged an impressively large prominence erupting from the surface. The dramatic explosion was captured in ultraviolet light in the above time lapse video covering 90 minutes, where a new frame was taken every 24 seconds. The scale of the prominence is huge -- the entire Earth would easily fit under the flowing curtain of hot gas. A solar prominence is channeled and sometimes held above the Sun's surface by the Sun's magnetic field. A quiescent prominence typically lasts about a month, and may erupt in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) expelling hot gas into the Solar System. The energy mechanism that creates a solar prominence is still a topic of research. As the Sun progresses toward Solar Maximum in the next few years, solar activity like eruptive prominences are expected to become more common.

Tomorrow's picture: open space

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