Flare Out

Today at 7:35 UT, hours before the final Discovery shuttle launch, the Sun had a launch of its own: an M3-class solar flare spewed a giant plume of material hundreds of thousands of miles into space. Luckily this ejection was not facing Earth at the time, but the active region responsible is gradually rotating into…

Monster Sun

Everyone’s abuzz about what SDO is watching this morning: a huge solar prominence and filament wrapping partway around the southwestern hemisphere of the Sun, literally hundreds of thousands of miles long! This is a section of the latest image from SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) 304 camera, which best captures details about the sun’s outer…

A Sinuous Strand

Featured on the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s Pick of the Week, this image from the observatory’s AIA 304 camera shows a gigantic filament snaking around the Sun’s southern hemisphere, hundreds of thousands of miles of magnetically-contained plasma made visible in extreme ultraviolet light. Filaments are bands of relatively cooler, denser solar material caught up in magnetic…

Flare Up

I caught this image this morning on the SDO site…it shows an eruption of plasma from the Sun’s photosphere that stretches out several tens of thousands of miles…the hooked loop at the end could easily encircle the entire Earth! This image is from about 11am or so, within a couple of hours the structure had…

Prominence Earth

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…

Pillar of Fire

Ok it’s not fire, it’s plasma, but it’s nevertheless a wonderful image by space photographer Alan Friedman showing a coronal ejection towering over 200,000 miles above the surface of the sun. It was taken on July 27, 2010. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) occur when particularly large magnetic loops filled with plasma “snap” and expel their…

A Beautiful Demise

I don’t usually post images of deep-space objects here but I had to make an exception for this one. With its most recent set of optics, installed in May 2009 during the STS-125 servicing mission (SM4), the Hubble Space Telescope is returning amazingly detailed images of distant, exotic objects – like the butterfly-shaped planetary nebula NGC 6302,…