Astronomy & Astrophysics 101: Solar Prominence

Giant Prominence Erupting on the Sun

On August 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted, sending out particles and a shock wave that traveled near Earth. This image of the prominence before it erupted was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/Goddard Space Flight Center

What Is a Solar Prominence?

Solar prominences are bright, extensive features emanating from the Sun’s surface, extending into the corona and lasting up to several months.

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.

Eruptive Solar Prominence

A solar eruptive prominence as seen in extreme UV light on March 30, 2010, with Earth superimposed for a sense of scale. Credit: NASA/SDO

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.

Be the first to comment on "Astronomy & Astrophysics 101: Solar Prominence"

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.