Text Size

SOHO Spots a Prominent Prominence
solar prominence imaged by SOHO spacecraft

The Sun ejected a spectacular "eruptive prominence," a mass of relatively cool plasma, into space on Friday, March 12. The gas was relatively cool - only 60,000-80,000 Kelvin (110,000 - 145,000 degrees F) compared with the fiery 1.5 million degree K plasma (2.7 million F) surrounding it in the Sun's outer atmosphere, or corona.

At the time of this snapshot, the eruptive prominence was over 700,000 km (420,000 miles across), over 50 times the Earth's diameter. That's like measuring the length of 50 Earth's standing side-by-side! Even more, the plasma was moving at a rate of over 75,000 km per hour (50,000 mph).

Eruptive prominences of this size are associated with coronal mass ejections (CME's), and the CME-prominence combination can deliver a powerful one-two punch to the earth's magnetosphere when directed toward Earth. In this case, the prominence and associated coronal mass ejection were directed away from the Earth and out into space.

SOHO is a mission of international cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. It was launched on December 2, 1995 from Cape Canaveral aboard an Atlas IIAS launch vehicle.

More Information:

Larger Version of This Image
SOHO Gallery, Hot Shots and Live Views
A Tangle of Filaments
Extensive Destruction Powers Solar Explosions
NOAA Space Environment Center

Dr. Joe Gurman
US SOHO Project Scientist
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center