If Mars was hoping to steal all our attention this week it almost worked. That was until photos surfaced taken on August 5, 2012 of a dark colored filament on the Sun that stretched almost 800,000 kilometers (or 500,000 miles) in length — twice the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
It must be the Sun's way of saying "Oh Snap!" to Mars.
Filaments are caused when the magnetic field in the solar atmosphere holds solar plasma between the Sun's visible surface — or chromosphere — into the corona. The filament appears dark because the solar plasma held in this state is cooler than the bright solar surface below.
Each of the two pictures taken shows the dark filament but with different views of the Sun.
The first photo, shown above, was taken by Paul Andrew. The high resolution shot took six images to make the composite image of the Sun, and five images to make the prominences shown at the edges.
The second shot, shown below, was taken by Leonard Mercer. His view is made up of 11 images that show not only the filament in detail but also the varied surface — along with three main sunspots (1535, 1538, 1540) in view.
Okay, Sun, you've proved yourself to be formidable. We won't forget you're still capable of putting on a show when we become sidetracked by those other celestial bodies out there — we know you're hot.
CORRECTION: This post missed a few zeroes when first reporting the length of the tear-like filament you see above and below. The distance has been corrected.