Sun’s ejections collide to create extreme space storm

Observations of eruptions of the sun's surface with the  STEREO and SOHO telescopes show that when the outbursts collide, they can produce record-setting space storms.

Ying Liu

When flares from the sun collide, it can create record-setting storms in space.

In July 2012, the sun shot off streams of charged particles and magnetic fields within 10 to 15 minutes of each other. These ejections collided, changing their direction toward a sun-observing telescope. The collision of ejections also boosted the magnetic field of the stream but didn’t slow it down substantially. The result was a record-setting solar storm at roughly the distance of Earth’s orbit, researchers report March 18 in Nature Communications.

The storm did not hit Earth, but the results support the idea that tracking interactions of the sun’s ejections is crucial for forecasting potentially damaging space storms, the scientists write.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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