The Sun continues to be active! This movie from the Solar Dynamics Observatory starts at 11:35 UT on March 24, 2011 and goes through midnight. It shows the active area 1176 – and active it was. Several flares are visible — according to the SDO website, there are B, C and M class flares all seen in this 20 second video. See below for another movie from March 19 of a looping solar prominence eruption on the limb of the Sun.
Prominences are large, bright features extending outward from the Sun’s surface, usually from 2 sunspots. Prominences often form in a loop shape, as can be seen in this video. What you are seeing is plasma trapped in the magnetic fields. Prominences are easier to see when they are on the limb of the Sun, like this one. Filaments are simply prominences seen from directly above.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.