I found this image to be compelling because it shows our earth in perspective to some of the more mild activity occuring on the surface of the sun.
There’s a rainstorm underway on the sun’s eastern limb. You’d better bring your asbestos umbrella, though, because the “droplets” are Texas-sized blobs of hot plasma:
click for a larger animation
“This is prominence finery at its best,” says photographer Pete Lawrence of Selsey, UK. “Small bright points within the prominence that were seen on the capture screen have been recorded as blurs due to the rapid motion of material in just a few seconds!”
Prominences are clouds of hydrogen held above the surface of the sun by magnetic fields. While this particular cloud appears to be raining like a summer shower on Earth, the true situation is more complicated. Look carefully: Some of the plasma raindrops are falling “up.” That’s because the motions are controlled by not only gravity but also magnetism, a force of little importance in terrestrial rainstorms. The solar magnetic field is rooted below the sun’s visible surface; roiling motions in the body of the sun itself cause magnetic fields high overhead to shift, wriggle, and “rain” in all directions. No wonder prominences are so much fun to watch.