On Friday, 12 March 2004, the Sun ejected a spectacular eruptive prominence into the heliosphere. SOHO, the ESA/NASA solar watchdog observatory, faithfully recorded the event.
SOHO sees eruptive prominence
This eruptive prominence is a mass of relatively cool plasma, or ionised gas. We say relatively cool, because the plasma observed by the Extreme-ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) on board SOHO was only about 80 000 degrees Celsius, compared to the plasma at one or two million degrees Celsius surrounding it in the Suns tenuous outer atmosphere, or corona.
At the time of this snapshot, the eruptive prominence seen at top right was over 700 000 kilometres across - over fifty times Earths diameter - and was moving at a speed of over 75 000 kilometres per hour.
Eruptive prominences of this size are associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and the combination of CMEs and prominences can affect Earths magnetosphere when directed toward our planet. In this case, the eruptive prominence and associated CME were directed away from Earth.
Bernhard Fleck | ESA
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