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Great Ball Of Fire!

A massive solar eruption, more than 30 times the length of Earth's diameter, blasted away from the sun Monday, and a satellite captured graphic images of the event.

The eruption occurred at 9:19 a.m. EDT and showed up in a picture taken by one instrument of the SOHO satellite as a fiery-looking "leg" in the lower-left corner of the image, scientists said in a statement.

Pictures taken over the following 90 minutes by another SOHO instrument show a loopy-looking eruption taking place and then dispersing. All images are visible at the SOHO Web site,

The "leg" is what astronomers call an eruptive prominence, which is a loop of magnetic fields that trap hot gas inside. As this prominence became unstable, it erupted into the area around the sun and appeared to dissipate.

If eruptions like these are aimed at Earth, they can disturb Earth's magnetosphere, but this one was not directed at our planet, a spokesman for SOHO said by telephone.

SOHO -- short for Solar and Heliospheric Observatory -- is run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Agency.

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