SCIENCE

Massive Filament Snakes Over Half A Million Miles Across Sun's Surface

02/12/2015 12:59 pm ET

Why so sad, sun? NASA's Solar Dynamics (SDO) spacecraft has spotted the sun looking like a frowny face, thanks to a massive, dark line snaking across the sun's surface. Just check out the image below, which was snapped on Feb. 10, 2015.

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solar filament
A solar filament, seen as a dark, snaking line across the lower half of the sun, hovers above the sun's surface.

The line, called a "solar filament," is 533,000 miles long when stretched out--that's longer than 67 Earths lined up, according to NASA. Solar filaments are clouds of cool, dense gas floating above the sun's surface, held in place by the sun's magnetic field.

They can last for several days or weeks until they collapse, or erupt--triggering what scientists call "coronal mass ejections," in which solar material is hurled into the sun's atmosphere or space.

filament multiple wavelengths
This "mosaic" image, captured on Feb. 12, 2015, shows the sun and the filament in multiple wavelengths.

SDO celebrated its fifth anniversary Wednesday, having launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Feb. 11, 2010. To date, it has taken more than 200 million images of the sun. Just check out some of those images in the video below.

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