Plasma corkscrews form on sun during stellar eruption | Science News

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Plasma corkscrews form on sun during stellar eruption

Magnetic quirk accompanying a coronal mass ejection upsets solar theory

By
5:09pm, September 5, 2014
A twist in the sun's magnetic field

SOLAR SLINKY  A corkscrew-shaped twist in the sun’s magnetic field (right, false-colored blue) called a flux rope extends off the solar surface.

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A twist on the sun is throwing solar scientists for a loop.

For the first time, researchers have watched the sun’s magnetic field force plasma into a spring-shaped curl during a powerful solar eruption known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME. The new observations contradict previous research suggesting that the twisted plasma structures are precursors of CMEs, which can disable satellites and disrupt air travel when directed toward Earth. The new findings appear August 28 in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Understanding the interplay between the magnetic curls and CMEs could help solar scientists spot impending solar storms well in advance, says astrophysicist Angelos Vourlidas of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., who was not involved with the new study. “A reconciled theory would potentially allow us to see

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