SPACE.COM – TARIQ MALIK
A NASA spacecraft watching the sun has captured a rare view of a true space oddity: something scientists call an “encircling filament” near a “hole” in Earth’s parent star.
The filament, which was photographed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31, appears as a tendril of dark material surrounding an active region on the sun’s surface.
“Only a handful of times before have we seen one shaped like a circle,” NASA officials wrote in an image description. “The black area to the left of the brighter active region is a coronal hole, a magnetically open region of the sun.”
Solar filaments are vast clouds of charged particles that hover over the sun’s surface and are tethered in place by invisible magnetic fields. Normally, these filaments appear as elongated, ropy strands across the star’s surface, so the circular formation spotted by SDO caught scientists’ attention.