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Watch a massive solar filament blaze out from the sun

The sun engaged in some spectacular celestial fireworks this week when an enormous solar filament erupted out into space.

filament erupting
This filament was a doozy. ESA/NASA/SOHO

The sun is one busy place in space. Our closest star has an impressive track record of activity ranging from flare-spewing sunspots to million-mile-long filaments of solar material snaking across its face. Its latest showstopper comes in the form of a filament ejected out into space in fascinating fashion.

A filament is a cloud of dense gas that hovers over the sun's surface. NASA describes this particular filament as extending "almost half the sun's visible hemisphere." The eruption took place over April 28 and 29; NASA released images and video of the event on May 4. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, a joint NASA and European Space Agency project, had a front-row seat for the action.

SOHO is the proud owner of several coronagraph instruments that take images of the sun's corona by blocking out the central bright bits of the star. The reddish image above shows where the body of the sun is in relation to the filament eruption.

The still image is impressive, but the real fun takes place in the short video showing the filament spitting out into space like fire from the mouth of a dragon. It's easy to see why solar astronomers tracked the filament's activity with great interest. The sun knows how to put on quite a show.