A pair of giant gassy plumes recently ejected by the sun ricocheted off each other like bouncy balls, changing solar physicists’ ideas about how these eruptions of charged particles and magnetic fields can behave.
Captured on camera by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory probes in November 2008, the two balls of charged gas smashed together and rebounded with more energy of motion than they had initially, scientists report online October 7 in Nature Physics. The phenomenon is known as a superelastic collision.
“Such a phenomenon is not frequently observed in nature,” says study coauthor Yuming Wang, a physicist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei. Scientists have observed it on the scale of small particles, but not with massive balls of charged gas. The finding was “very surprising,” Wang says.
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