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.

May 15, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

TRACE and the Active Sun
Credit: Courtesy CFA, TRACE Team, NASA

Explanation: This dramatic high resolution picture looking across the edge of the Sun was taken April 24th by a telescope on board the newly launched Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) satellite. It shows graceful arcs of intensely hot gas suspended in powerful looping magnetic fields which soar above a solar active region. The colorized image was made in the extreme ultraviolet light radiated by highly ionized Iron atoms. With a temperature of a mere 6,000 degrees Celsius, the sun's surface is relatively cool and dark at these wavelengths, but the million degree hot plasma loops glow strongly! Such TRACE images follow the plasma and magnetic structures arising from the surface of the sun as they merge with the tenuous, hot solar Corona or outer atmosphere. By operating the TRACE instruments during the Sun's increasingly active phase, scientists hope to explore the connections between complex solar magnetic fields and potentially hazardous solar eruptions.

Tomorrow's picture: Helios Helium

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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.