<p><strong>A giant wall of heated gas rises from the <a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/solar-system/sun-article/">sun</a>'s surface in a false-color photograph taken by solar observer <a href="http://www.stephenramsden.com/">Stephen Ramsden</a> last Friday. Known as prominences, these solar features are anchored to the sun's surface but can extend many tens of thousands of miles into space. </strong></p><p>"If you see [videos] of these things, they're constantly in motion," said <a href="http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/people/jbg.html">Joseph Gurman</a>, a solar astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.</p><p>"The material doesn't actually stay up there for very long. It's constantly being replenished."</p><p>While solar prominences are fairly common, the ones captured in recent photos by solar observers around the world are unusually tall and look to be on the verge of being ejected into space, Gurman said.</p><p>Gurman estimated that this particular prominence is about 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers)—or roughly the width of eight Earths—tall.</p><p>(Related: <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/04/100423-sun-eruption-nasa-space-science-solar-observatory/">"Sun Erupts: Epic Blast Seen by NASA Solar Observatory."</a>)</p><p>The dark section at the bottom of the photograph is the surface of the sun, which photographer Ramsden artificially blackened so it wouldn't overwhelm the other solar features.</p><p><em>—Ker Than</em></p>

Giant Wall of Gas

A giant wall of heated gas rises from the sun's surface in a false-color photograph taken by solar observer Stephen Ramsden last Friday. Known as prominences, these solar features are anchored to the sun's surface but can extend many tens of thousands of miles into space.

"If you see [videos] of these things, they're constantly in motion," said Joseph Gurman, a solar astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"The material doesn't actually stay up there for very long. It's constantly being replenished."

While solar prominences are fairly common, the ones captured in recent photos by solar observers around the world are unusually tall and look to be on the verge of being ejected into space, Gurman said.

Gurman estimated that this particular prominence is about 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers)—or roughly the width of eight Earths—tall.

(Related: "Sun Erupts: Epic Blast Seen by NASA Solar Observatory.")

The dark section at the bottom of the photograph is the surface of the sun, which photographer Ramsden artificially blackened so it wouldn't overwhelm the other solar features.

—Ker Than

Image courtesy Stephen Ramsden

Pictures: Giant Walls of Plasma Seen on Sun

Eight Earths tall and looking like giant walls of fire, loops of plasma have recently been spotted by sun observers worldwide.

Read This Next

The science behind seasonal depression
These 3,000-year-old relics were torched and buried—but why?
How the Holocaust happened in plain sight

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet