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Scientists believe that flares, prominence eruptions, and coronal mass ejections are related phenomena. Their relationship is complex, however, and not yet fully understood. 42 4 Chapter The Stars: Their Place in the Sky S ince ancient times people have gazed at thousands of stars in the night sky. For most of this time, they could only guess about the nature of these pinpoints of light, often making them objects of wonder, worship, comfort, or fear. In the last century, scientists determined what stars are—enormous balls of incandescent gas, powered by nuclear fusion reactions in their cores—and that the Sun is one of them.

42 4 Chapter The Stars: Their Place in the Sky S ince ancient times people have gazed at thousands of stars in the night sky. For most of this time, they could only guess about the nature of these pinpoints of light, often making them objects of wonder, worship, comfort, or fear. In the last century, scientists determined what stars are—enormous balls of incandescent gas, powered by nuclear fusion reactions in their cores—and that the Sun is one of them. Ancient Ideas About Stars Many ancient cultures believed that the stars were lights attached to a huge dome (the sky) over Earth.

The corona sometimes releases enormous clouds of hot plasma into space. Like solar flares, these coronal mass ejections release energy built up in solar magnetic fields. They usually last hours, however, while the rapid eruptions from flares typically last only minutes. Like other kinds of solar activity, coronal mass ejections are most common during 40 The Sun’s Magnetic Fields and Solar Activity A very large coronal mass ejection, at upper right. The red disk in the center is part of the coronagraph used to take the image.

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