Giant Solar Prominences

Giant Solar Prominences

Friedman's full-disk image is a must-see.

Solar activity takes many forms. Researchers often focus their attention on sunspots, counting dark cores that pepper the solar disk as a metric of the solar cycle. However, sunspots aren’t the only thing happening on the sun. This week, they are outnumbered by prominences. Alan Friedman photographed this specimen from his backyard observatory in Buffalo, New York:

“A short break in the clouds and spring snow showers allowed a peek at the sun today,” says Friedman. “It was quite a view with several large prominences at the edge of the disk.” Friedman’s full-disk image is a must-see.

Prominences are clouds of plasma held above the sun’s surface by unstable magnetic fields. The one pictured above is called a “hedgerow prominence” because of its resemblance to the shrub-y border of a terrestrial road or yard. NASA and Japanese space telescopes have taken high resolution images of similar prominences and seen some amazing things such as (1) tadpole-shaped plumes that float up from the base of the prominence; (2) narrow streams of plasma that descend from the top like waterfalls; and (3) swirls and vortices that resemble van Gogh’s Starry Night.

This is a good week to see these structures in action. If you have a solar telescope, take a look!

Photo by Alan Friedman

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