The sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft has imaged many erupting filaments lifting off the active solar surface and blasting enormous bubbles of magnetic plasma into space. This image shows the sun in ultraviolet light, while the field of view extends over 2 million kilometers, or 1.243 million miles, from the solar surface.
While hints of these explosive sun storms, called coronal mass ejections or CMEs, were discovered by spacecraft in the early 1970s, this dramatic image is part of a detailed record of this CME's development from the presently operating SOHO spacecraft. At a minimum, solar activity cycle CMEs occur about once a week, with maximum rates of two or more per day. Strong CMEs may profoundly influence space weather and those directed toward our planet can have serious effects.
Image credit: NASA/JPL