A Tangle of Filaments (February 26, 2004)
Hi-res TIF image (3.1M)
A careful look at the Sun in ultraviolet light shows a series of
three filaments slanting up roughly at a 45 degree angle in the lower
right quadrant of the Sun (23 Feb. 2004). Both the image's contrast
and the filaments have been darkened to make the filaments easier to
pick out. Filaments are twisting masses of cooler ("only" 10,000 -
100,000 degrees Kelvin) gas contained by magnetic fields above the
Sun's surface in the midst of the much hotter (~ 1,500,000 K)
corona). (Filaments are called prominences if observed on the Sun's
limb or edge.) The long, curling, central filament, if straightened
out, would appear to be able to span the diameter of the Sun, over
1,000,000 miles. Sometimes these filaments collapse and erupt,
although these three have remained stable for the past several days.
The video clip first shows the Sun in white light taken by the MDI instrument. This instrument observes the Sun's surface and does not "see" the filaments at all. However, this image is then replaced by an EIT 195 instrument image in which the subtly darker filaments can be discerned. Finally, an EIT 304 image is revealed underneath in which the filaments are even easier to see.
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