Mini CMEs

The Sun isn't peaceful. It is constantly spitting and sneezing out large amounts of plasma into space something that is officially called a coronal mass ejection (CME). This plasma - a soup of electrically charged particles - travels out through the solar system and can hit us if we happen to get in the way.

A negative image of the Sun showing the active region
IMAGE: Solar UK Research Facility

Until recently, solar physicists have studied large CMEs mainly because they are easier to watch. When I say big, I mean big; sometimes the base of the explosions cover an area of thousands of millions of square miles. Now, an international team have observed the smallest ever coronal mass ejection coming from an area which is only about the size of the Earth! You can see it highlighted in the image above.

Monitoring CMEs is important as the very energetic charged particles cause problems for us if they reach the Earth. These days we call this space weather.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 23rd May 2005 (12:20 UTC) | Permalink
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