March 23, 2016 – A round solar prominence burst from the sun on March 13, 2016, shortly after it rotated into the view of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO. Much of the solar material did not escape the sun’s gravitational pull, falling back to the solar surface.
Prominences – called filaments when seen against the sun’s face instead of over the horizon – are notoriously unstable clouds of solar material suspended above the solar surface by the sun’s complex magnetic forces. They often break apart after a few days.
Video of the prominence was made from images taken every 12 seconds by SDO – the fastest-ever cadence for solar observations from space. This prominence was captured in wavelengths of 304 angstroms, a type of extreme ultraviolet light that is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in red.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is designed to study the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. The spacecraft’s long-term measurements give solar scientists in-depth information to help characterize the interior of the sun, the sun’s magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the density of radiation that creates the ionosphere of the planets. The information is used to create better forecasts of space weather needed to protect aircraft, satellites and astronauts living and working in space.
SDO includes three instruments: the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) built in partnership with Stanford University, and the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) built in partnership with the Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory. Data collected by the spacecraft is made available as soon as possible after it is received.
Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program.
SDO was launched on February 11, 2010 aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.