Solar Physicists at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London (MSSL-UCL) have discovered new clues to understanding explosions on the Sun.
Coronal mass ejections are violent explosions that can fling electrified gas [plasma] with a mass greater than Mount Everest towards the Earth with destructive consequences for satellites. They can originate from active regions on the Sun, long known to consist of forests of loops filled with plasma. These active loops are roughly 50,000 km in size. However, active regions on either side of the solar disk are frequently connected by giant loops, which can bridge the Sun’s equator. These loops have long been thought of as the gentle giants of the Sun, but in a paper to be published early this year in the journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics, the researchers describe the explosive characteristics of these giants.
An example of a giant loop can clearly be seen in figure one, where the width of the arrow represents the size of the Earth. These giant loops of plasma are 450,000 km long - large enough to engulf 40 Earths. If Concorde could fly along one of these loops, it would take nearly 9 days to complete the journey!
Julia Maddock | alfa
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