Solar physicists at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL, University College London) in Surrey have found new clues to the thirty year old puzzle of why the Sun ejects huge bubbles of electrified gas, laced with magnetic field, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). In a paper published this month in the Journal of Solar Physics, they explain that the key to understanding CMEs, which can cause electricity black outs on Earth, may be due to twisted magnetic fields originating deep within the heart of the Sun.
CMEs are violent solar eruptions which travel at 1000 times the speed of Concorde and contain more mass then Mt. Everest. They have proved hazardous to modern technology, seen most dramatically in 1989 when a CME magnified the solar wind, which then slammed into the Earth. This caused widespread blackouts, which cost the Canadian national grid several million of pounds in damage to their systems. On the more aesthetic side, CMEs are also responsible for the northern (and southern) lights, Aurora Borealis.
Dr. Lucie Green of MSSL says, `Ultimately we need to know why CMEs occur so that one day we will be able to predict them just like we do with the weather on Earth. This is the new science of Space Weather.`
Julia Maddock | alfa
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