The Sun is feisty. Rising and falling packets of ionized gas (called plasma) below its surface generate fierce magnetic fields, which store vast amounts of energy. This can give rise to such features as sunspots, explosions like flares and coronal mass ejections, and huge, towering plumes of plasma called prominences.
While observing the Sun yesterday, April 29, my pal and friend of the BA Blog Alan Friedman captured an amazing sequence of shots of an eruptive prominence, one that doesn't simply fall back down to the solar surface, but also blasts material out into space:
[Click to greatly enfilamentate.]
Wow! Alan estimates that at its peak the eruption was 150,000+ kilometers (100,000 miles) in height -- compare that to the size of the Earth, a mere 13,000 km (8000 miles) in diameter. Yowza.
He also made a color image of it which is lovely and terrifying.... and slightly familiar. It didn't take me long to recognize it. That treacherous profile, that conniving nose, that sinister haircut...
Oh, it's clear who's really behind this eruption:
[UPDATE: Good news, everyone! When I posted this on Google+, commenter Artemis Entreri mentioned it looks more like Professor Farnsworth. I can't believe I didn't think of that myself! I blame Wernstrom.]