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'Graceful Eruption' on Sun Revealed in Stunning Photo

Solar Prominence March 16 2013
A solar prominence began to bow out and the broke apart in a graceful, floating style in a little less than four hours on March 16, 2013. (Image credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA)

A NASA spacecraft that constantly watches the sun has captured an amazing view of a solar eruption that exploded from the surface of the star 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.

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.

This story was provided by SPACE.com, sister site to Live Science. Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

Tariq Malik

Tariq joined Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.