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Cannibalistic coronal mass ejection
April 02, 2001
courtesy NASA

Movie is 2 MB large. Requires the free QuickTime plug-in.

Fast-moving solar eruptions apparently overtake and often devour their slower kin. NASA astronomers heard strange radio fireworks using NASA’s Wind spacecraft, and later linked the timing of these radio outbursts to images of solar eruptions consuming each other captured by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. The movie above is an artist’s conception of the phenomenon, called a cannibalistic coronal mass ejection.

Solar eruptions directed toward Earth are potentially harmful to advanced technology, including communications and power systems, and this cannibalistic behavior may result in longer magnetic storms. These collisions change the speed of the eruption, which is important for space weather prediction because it alters estimated arrival time of Earthbound coronal ejections.

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