It would be easy enough to mistake the focal object with, say, Mars, but you are, in fact, looking at the Sun as a little-known phenomenon goes down—a "solar prominence."
They happen when the Sun ejects hot loops of plasma so large, they often span thousands of miles across. The largest can eclipse the star itself sometimes.
Ejected from the photosphere—the region from which photons emerge—the massive "flares" extend well beyond the corona, which is around 5 million miles (8 million km) from the Sun's solar surface.
As an aside, we recently learned that the corona is around 6 times wider than the Sun itself. Impressive by any standard!
More from NASA:
This image of a solar prominence was taken by Gary Palmer, who could win the "astronomy photographer of the year" award. Other contestants can be viewed below (See a larger image here)
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