Known as a prominence eruption, the flare is a bright feature extending from the sun’s surface. It forms over the course of a day and erupts when the structure becomes unstable and releases the plasma held within.
An increase in solar flares is to be expected as the sun’s 11-year activity cycle ramps up toward the solar maximum, expected to reach its peak in late 2013. (Related: “Solar Storm Heading Toward Earth.”)
The five-mile-wide volcanic island was spotted by the satellite as it flew over the Flores Sea (map), capturing both a natural-color shot (pictured), as well as an infrared image.
The infrared sensor revealed a hot spot where lava was oozing near the top of the volcano and also indicated that ash pouring out of the volcano was much cooler in temperature than the ocean’s surface below.
Image courtesy Robert Simmon/USGS/NASA
This artist’s conception, released by NASA, shows Saturn’s embedded “ring current,” made up of an invisible ring of energetic ions trapped in the planet’s magnetic field.
The electrically charged, doughnut-shaped field of particles surrounding Saturn and its rings is mapped out here using data from the Cassini-Huygens mission. Saturn is pictured in the center, with the red ring representing the distribution of dense neutral gas outside of the planet’s icy rings.
Also known as a plasma sheet, the magnetic field—imagined here in yellow and green—acts like a magnet and traps these particles in Saturn’s system, much like the magnetic fields that surround Earth. (Related: “Hidden Portals in Earth’s Magnetic Field.”)
Illustration courtesy JHUAPL/NASA
Saturn After Dark
A lack of atmosphere to scatter light makes Saturn’s shadow upon its rings much darker than shadows seen on Earth, as evidenced in this striking image released by NASA’sCassini spacecraft May 6.
Taken about 891,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from Saturn, this view looks toward the unilluminated side of the planet’s rings—about 47 degrees below the plane of Saturn’s rings. (Related: “Saturn’s Rings Hit by Meteor Shower.”)