Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 14:39 EDT

NASA SDO – Prominence Eruption on January 10, 2013

January 14, 2013

This segment shows a beautiful prominence eruption on January 10, 2013.

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.

When a prominence erupts, the released material is part of a larger magnetic structure called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). When directed toward Earth, CMEs can interact with our Earth’s magnetic field and trigger a geomagnetic storm, with bright auroras and the potential for disturbance in communications and electrical power networks.

This prominence eruption was not Earth directed.

Credit: NASA SDO