NASA's solar dynamics observatory (SDO) just took the first test images of our fiery dominatrix (why cant i think of a better word right now?), the sun. the SDO was launched into orbit in feb 2010 on an atlas V rocket. the spacecraft will monitor the sun and its activity (visible in the video below) and study how solar activity creates "space weather" on earth.
the first image in the video is a composite image of the sun created from several different filters. i love the colors - it looks like art to my eyes. then the video shows a huge prominence growing from the upper left of the sun and then breaking apart. these loops are formed because of the sun's magnetic field. the big arc of solar stuff follows along magnetic field lines, giving us clues to their structure and strength.
the SDO will study how and why the sun's magnetic field changes. the effect of magnetic fields remains to be one of the largest mysteries about all objects in the universe because magnetic fields are mathematically complicated beasts with large influences but insignificant observational clues. in fact, at professional astronomy meetings when someone inevitably asks a person presenting their research about whether they've taken into account the effect of magnetic fields, the audience heaves a long collective sigh and rolls their eyes back to the speaker who doubtlessly answers with "not yet, due to their complicated nature."
the full resolution version of the image above (download here) is stunning!