cartwheel coronal mass ejection


Animated version here:

And also here in black/white:

“On April 9, 2008, a coronal mass ejection or “CME” pirouetted over the sun’s limb in full view of an international fleet of spacecraft. Even veteran solar physicists were amazed.

But that’s not all. While one part of the cloud did a cartwheel, another part did a backflip at the same time. As strange as it sounds, this could be the normal way solar explosions unfold, say researchers analyzing the data.

“What a rare and exciting observation,” says Ed DeLuca of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) who announced the findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on May 27th. “It is showing us the secret inner workings of a process called ‘magnetic reconnection’ central to solar flares and CMEs.

These videos reveal a billion tons of hot, magnetized gas twirling at speeds in excess of 1000 km/s. The cartwheel (left; recorded by the X-Ray Telescope onboard Japan’s Hinode spacecraft) spins one way while the backflip (right; recorded by UV cameras onboard NASA’s TRACE spacecraft) spins the other. How can an explosion spin in two directions at once?

DeLuca explains: “We think we are seeing a twisted ‘flux tube’ of solar magnetism unfurl. One end of the tube spins clockwise, the other counterclockwise.” This unfurling action pumps energy into the explosion, heating the CME and propelling it away from the sun.”


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