By: Tariq Malik
Published: 03/28/2013 12:05 PM EDT on SPACE.com
A NASA spacecraft that constantly watches the sun has captured an amazing view of a solar eruption that exploded from the star's surface this month.
The new image, which NASA featured as its image of the day today (March 28), shows the solar prominence — a delicate combination of super-hot plasma and magnetic fields — just after it snapped, sending plumes of material out into space.
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NASA scientists dubbed the sun storm a "Graceful Eruption." It occurred on March 16 and was captured by the space agency's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which records spectacular views of the sun in high definition.
"A solar prominence began to bow out and broke apart in a graceful, floating style in a little less than four hours," NASA officials explained in an image description. "The sequence was captured in extreme ultraviolet light. A large cloud of particles appeared to hover further out above the surface before it faded away."
The SDO spacecraft also captured a dazzling video of the graceful solar eruption.
The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar cycle and is expected to reach peak activity this year. The current solar weather cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24.
NASA's SDO spacecraft is one of several observatories that monitor the sun's activity and solar weather events.
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- Anatomy of Sun Storms & Solar Flares (Infographic)
- Photos: Sunspots on Earth's Closest Star