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Emily LakdawallaApril 13, 2010

Stellar explosion

EDIT 11:54 PDT: Replaced the animation with a better one. (Thanks, Sunspot.)

The Sun just spat out a huge coronal mass ejection, an event made visible by the watchful cameras on SOHO:

Solar prominence on April 13, 2010

NASA / ESA / SOHO

Solar prominence on April 13, 2010
An animation of 18 images taken by SOHO's Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) shows a coronal mass ejection (CME) ballooning away from the Sun. LASCO blocks the light of the Sun to make features in its corona visible. The white circle shows the diameter of the Sun.

(Thanks to user "sunspot" on unmannedspaceflight.com for the heads up -- that's certainly an appropriate username!)

The event is still evolving, so if you're reading this post even an hour after I post it, it would be worth your time to go to the SOHO website to see what's new. They have a cool "SOHO movie theater" Web feature that is an excellent example of how a mission can employ a simple, minimal Web interface, with no fancy, Flashy bells and whistles, to allow visitors to get quick access to the SOHO image data. If you want to make an animation that looks like the one I posted, select "LASCO C2" from the "Image Type" menu, then click "Search." It will automatically grab all the LASCO C2 images from the previous 24 hours and animate them for you. If the coronal mass ejection has wandered completely out of the LASCO C2 field of view, you might enjoy the LASCO C3 field of view instead. If you are reading this post days after I wrote it and want to go back to the time period that produced the coronal mass ejection I show above, just put in "2010-04-13" as the start date.

Read more: pretty pictures, the Sun, animation, solar observing spacecraft

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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