NASA’S SOLAR DYNAMICS OBSERVATORY (SDO) spacecraft captured an enormous plasma ‘filament’ collapsing on the Sun on August 31. A filament is a type of prominence – a loop of plasma (ionised gas) extending up from the Sun’s visible surface – seen in silhouette against the solar disc.
Solar prominences reach up from the photosphere (the visible surface) into the corona, the outer atmosphere of the Sun which contains extremely hot gases. The corona is so hot that it radiates energy beyond the wavelengths of visible light, so it is not normally seen. Prominences are made of cooler ionised gas, so they are visible even through they extend into the corona.
The video above shows a filament loop collapsing, seen partly silhouetted against the solar disc.
The SDO spacecraft, launched in February 2010, studies the Sun continuously from its orbit around the Earth.
Story by Jonathan Nally. Video and image courtesy NASA/SDO.
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