And we have liftoff! The Solar Dynamics Observatory has been providing images and video of some beautiful prominences and filaments over the past few days, and today the spacecraft captured a large prominence lifting off over the North Western limb of the Sun. A huge ball of plasma explodes from the surface and blooms into an arc loop that achieves enough energy to escape the Sun’s gravity.
The SDO team explains what the video shows:
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.