Monday, December 6, 2010

Solar filament eruption

Over the next few months, we're moving into an active phase of the Sun's 11-year cycle.  There have been some big sunspots visible lately - this picture is from around noon EST today:

There's also been a huge solar filament stretching around the Sun's southeastern limb (the image above is upside down since that's the way it's seen through the telescope so the filament is actually associated with that large sunspot visible in the picture).

The filament was 700,000 kilometers in length (that's about the radius of the Sun!) and erupted today.  Most of the energy was directed away from the Earth so shouldn't result in any auroras but here's some spectacular footage from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.  Click on the image to view as a movie.

Our Sun is an active place!

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