September 14, 2016 – The two most noteworthy features observed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) this week were a pair of elongated filaments suspended above the surface of the sun.
In the above image, from September 8, the central filament is twisted into the shape of an elaborate arch at the center of the sun (yellow arrows). If this were straightened out, it would reach nearly a million miles (1.6 million km) from end to end and extend across most of the sun. The smaller filament(white arrows), straightened, might reach about half that distance.
Filaments are cooler clouds of gas that are suspended above the surface of the sun by tenuous magnetic fields. Filament can float sedately for days before disappearing, but they also commonly erupt releasing solar material in a shower that rains back to the surface or escapes out into space, becoming a moving cloud known as a coronal mass ejection (CME).
The image was made by combining three images in different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, each of which helps highlight material in different wavelengths and temperatures. By studying the light in various wavelengths, scientists can learn more about what causes these structures, as well as what catalyzes their eruptions.
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.
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.