The mega-filament collapsed in a gorgeous cascade of hot plasma between noon and 2 p.m. EST. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a beautiful movie of the eruption (above). The explosion does not appear to be aimed at Earth, so we shouldn’t expect any magnetic storms or satellite troubles.
The loop of hot plasma has been snaking around the sun’s southeast limb since Dec. 4, and appears to be growing by the hour. When SDO saw it on Dec. 4, the filament was more than 250,000 miles long, about 30 times the diameter of the Earth. In the image below, taken at about 12:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 6, the loop of charged plasma stretches more than 435,000 miles, the full radius of the sun.
So far the gigantic prominence has hung suspended peacefully above the sun’s surface, but this morning it started showing signs of instability. Long filaments like this one can break apart as coronal mass ejections, releasing tons of hot, charged material into the inner solar system and potentially causing magnetic storms on Earth — although this one seems to be safe.
The image you see is in ultraviolet channels, not visible light. This prominence is an excellent target for backyard telescopes. If you capture any great sun photos in the next few days, let us know.
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