A serpentine solar prominence snakes thousands of miles through space towards an unsuspecting Earth!
This apocalyptic sci-fi scene is made up of two combined images of the sun from NASA’s SDO sapcecraft, acquired today September 25, 2010, superimposed and edited to show both surface (chromosphere) detail as well as coronal features, and an image of Earth created by NASA’s GOES weather satellite, reduced to actual scale as compared to the sun. (See a labeled version on my Flickr gallery.)
Luckily for us Earth has 93 million miles between it and the surface of the sun…far enough away for prominences like this to pose no risk but still well within the atmospheric influence of our parent star. One day, billions of years in the future, our sun’s outer layers will expand until they engulf the inner planets – Earth included – but until then images like this will remain safely in the realm of artistic imagination. A little sunscreen should do the trick.
Image sources: NASA (SDO) and the AIA Consortium / NOAA-NASA GOES Project. Edited by J. Major.