NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this video on March 27 – 28 of two large areas of “dark” plasma on the Sun’s limb, twisting and spiraling in our star’s complex magnetic field. The southern region bears an uncanny resemblance to three figures swaying to some spooky, unheard music… a real “danse macabre” on the Sun!
Imaged in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, relatively cool solar prominences can appear dark against the much hotter material just above the Sun’s photosphere. Magnetic lines upwelling from the Sun’s interior can trap plasma and carry it high into the Sun’s atmosphere. When these regions are close to each other they can interact, connecting magnetically and causing solar material to arc back and forth between them.
If the magnetic lines snap, as they often do, the trapped material can get flung out into space… creating a CME, or coronal mass ejection. Large ones can travel considerable distances into the Solar System.
These particular prominences seem happy to stay where they are, dancing in place.
The SDO team wrote on their site, where this video was chosen as the Pick of the Week:
“We have seen these twisting spirals in action before, but rarely have we been able to watch them pass strands of material back and forth along magnetic field lines with such clarity. This view was taken in extreme ultraviolet light by Solar Dynamics Observatory at a frame rate of an image every 3 minutes (450 frames in total).”
Be sure to check out the video in high-definition, full screen on the SDO YouTube channel!
Video courtesy NASA/SDO and the AIA science team.