Pick of The Week

Graceful Plume (December 23, 2005)

Hi-res TIF image (5.0M)

On December 18-19, 2005 the Sun produced a nicely elongated plume of gases that appeared and erupted over a period of 11 hours. We call these eruptive prominences. In these images we are observing the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light in the 304 Angstrom wavelength - the material imaged is actually ionized helium at about 60,000 C, not far above the surface of the Sun. But of course the elongated plume reaches far beyond the Sun, several hundred thousand miles or about 35 times the size of the Earth. In the next image taken several hours later, the plume has disappeared.

These eruptions are driven by powerful magnetic forces that usually maintain control over these cooler gases above the Sun, but sometimes the control breaks down and the gases explode into space, as witnessed above. This particular plume is strikingly similar to a plume we observed in 1997 that erupted from the lower left of the Sun (see here).

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SOHO began its Weekly Pick some time after sending a weekly image or video clip to the American Museum of Natural History (Rose Center) in New York City. There, the SOHO Weekly Pick is displayed with some annotations on a large plasma display.

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