Seen the movie “Prometheus” yet? If so, you may recognize one of the creatures in an eerie but beautiful prominence eruption from the Sun today. The folks at the Solar Dynamics Observatory noticed the similarity, too. This video covers almost 15 hours from the early hours of June 18, 2012, showing ultraviolet views from the AIA instrument on SDO. In addition to the hovering alien, look for a big blast from the Sun at about 0:15, too.
“This 304 angstrom channel (red Sun) provides us a very good way of seeing areas where cooler dense plumes of plasma, filaments and prominences, are located above the visible surface of the Sun,” said the SDO team. “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.”
There is a also a close-up view in 171 angstrom of this prominence showing the arcs extending off of the Sun where plasma moves along magnetic field lines.
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.