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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

NASA SDO – Prominence Liftoff on September 4, 2012

September 5, 2012

And Liftoff – we have been seeing some beautiful prominences and filaments over the past few days. Today another large prominence lifted off over the North Western limb of the Sun.

A solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk) is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun’s surface. Prominences are anchored to the Sun’s surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun’s hot outer atmosphere, called the corona. A prominence forms over timescales of about a day, and stable prominences may persist in the corona for several months, looping hundreds of thousands of miles into space. Scientists are still researching how and why prominences are formed.

The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas comprised of electrically charged hydrogen and helium. The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.

Credit: NASA SDO