Solar material dances on the sun in this image of a mid-level flare from NASA’sSolar Dynamics Observatory taken May 3.
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.”)
Space Pictures This Week: Sunrise From Space, Saturn After Dark
Astronauts see the sun rise from space, Saturn goes dark, and a volcano spews ash in this week’s best space pictures.