Solar Prominences Recorded By NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

11/25/2011 06:01 pm ET | Updated Nov 25, 2011

Huge plasma blasts appear to explode off the sun's surface in a video released by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The SDO is part of a mission to better understand the effects activity on the sun could have on earth.

The blasts, called "solar prominences," were captured over a one day period between November 14 and 15. One skywatcher, who caught a glimpse of the interstellar drama through his telescope, described the plasma bursts as looking like Diplodocus, a long-necked dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period.

According to Wired, solar prominences are "relatively cool, dense strands of gas that erupt from the surface of the sun to follow the star's magnetic field, arcing and twisting before either collapsing back in or ejecting into space to become a solar flare."

These prominences are massive. In 2010, a solar filament was spotted that was 430,000 miles long, which is equal to the radius of the sun. A solar filament is the same as a solar prominence just seen from a different angle. When the strands of plasma are seen silhouetted against the sun they appear black and are called solar filaments. When the plasma loops are seen against the sky they glow and are referred to as solar prominences.

Although this prominence was one of the largest in recent years, NASA says this isn't surprising given that the sun's activity is on the rise. The sun's current cycle, Solar Cycle 24, is expected to reach its maximum level of activity in the middle of 2013.

Check out the massive solar prominence in action in the video below.

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