The Sun may seem like a bright, featureless blazing ball in the sky, but in specially filtered telescopes it shows an other-worldly host of huge features. Spots larger than Earth can be seen next to bright “plages” that reveal the magnetic fields that cause the spots to form. The brightest plages are massive magnetic explosions tens of thousands of miles across that fire x-rays our way and affect our magnetic field and can affect navigation and radio communications.
Dark, irregular lines, called filaments, are star matter held aloft by magnetic fields that sometimes explosively recombine and fling matter into space that can damage satellites, endanger astronauts and cause aurorae and radio blackouts. Where they reach the edge of the Sun they are called prominences and look like flames rimming the Sun.
On the upper left of the photo a filament over 100,000 miles long connects to a prominence over 10,000 miles high above the solar limb. On the lower right, a prominence shows matter being flung into space by magnetic explosions. The appearances of these features change over a matter of minutes to hours, so the Sun is a very dynamic place.
NOTE: NEVER look art the Sun with the naked eye or through ordinary telescopes or binoculars. Permanent eye damage and blindness will result. This photo was taken through a telescope specially designed to filter out over 99% of the Sun’s harmful rays.
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