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Comet crashes into Sun... did it cause a CME???

Posted by Diego Fonstad
Diego Fonstad
Diego Fonstad has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 19 October 2011
in Images that speak for themselves

Teachable Moment: Great visual of a comet hitting the sun with an in depth explanation of what we see.

Very interesting event October 1!

Posted on the Spaceweather.com site is a dramatic video of a large comet crashing into the Sun and nearly immediately a major Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) blew off the left side.  You can see this video at:


Watching this video, you might be tempted to say that the comet caused the CME.  Frankly, there isn't enough energy in a comet to cause a CME, but it might be possible that the sound wave that the CME caused on the surface of the Sun might have traveled to the far side and gave just the tiniest push that allowed a reconnection event to occur slightly sooner than it would have without it.  We know that sound waves travel along the surface of the sun... that field of study is called "solar seismology", and it allows scientists to infer that there is a sunspot on the far side of the sun by its interruption of the standing waves on the sun. Scientists have observed comet tails interacting with the solar corona, so we know they do influence each other via magnetic fields. And we have seen that pressure changes in the solar wind can trigger reconnection at the Earth, so stay tuned... events like this can trigger scientific discoveries!  There have been many more comets observed striking the sun that did not trigger CME's, but this is a larger comet and the sun has had more active regions lately.

(The slowly moving bright object near the top is Mercury - planets appear elongated horizontally because they are so bright the CCD camera bleeds onto neighboring pixels in the camera).

Anyone who has "Space Weather" CD or the "Space Update" or "Virtual Planetarium" DVDs installed on your hard drive, you can use the software to download this video, including the days before and after, and the larger outer solar corona view.  Go to the Space Weather module, select "The Sun Today" (pull down under "Sun").  Then on the right side select "Inner Solar Corona" or "outer solar corona".  (Use the down arrow just to the left of the title "SUN : The SUN TODAY").  That will bring up the coronal movie from the last time you updated the software.  Then hit the "refresh" button (circle with arrows, like a recycle icon at the lower left below the image), and it will ask you to select a source site: either the original site or the mirror site will work.  It does take a while to bring the video down since it is a large file. But once that download is finished, your software will display this amazing event, and will save it till you refresh again.  You must have the software installed on your hard drive, and you must be connected to the internet.  (it can't refresh images if you are playing from the disk).

Our software brings down the last few days of the corona so do it relatively soon before it cycles off.

Once you have downloaded it, you can then copy the movie out of your software folder and play it separately if desired.

The location for the file in your software is:

Space Weather/SpaceWeather/data/sun/the_sun_today/current_c2small.gif               (inner corona)

Space Weather/SpaceWeather/data/sun/the_sun_today/current_c3small.gif               (outer corona)

This is true for all the images in Space Update or its companion Earth Update ... you can copy any of the the images or movies in our software and use in another application - none of them are hidden or protected..  (don't just move the image out or it won't play in our software).

Any time an updating image is updated, however, the older version is replaced, so if you want to make a sequence of auroral images, or solar images, then be sure to save each image in another folder and rename with the date so that the next update doesn't lose them.

If you don't have a copy of Space Weather, teachers can get one free in the Sun-Earth Day packets from NASA.

Others can order the full "Space Update" software (which includes Space Weather) from our software store:


To download the movies directly from the SOHO site, go to



Space Update DVD was developed under NASA Cooperative Agreement with Rice University.  Space Weather CD was developed under the IMAGE program and is continued under the MMS, Cluster, and CISM programs.  Both software have passed NASA Product review.   Either can be set up to use as an unattended computer kiosk (contact us for details).


/     \     Prof. Patricia H. Reiff

/        \      Director, Rice Space Institute

/ _^ ^_ \     Rice University MS108, Houston, TX 77251-1892

/ /  O O  \ \     email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

/  \    V    /  \     www:  http://space.rice.edu/reiff

/  /  ""R""  \   \

| \  ""U""  / |    "Why does man want to go to the Moon?

| _/|\ /|\_ |   .. Why does Rice play Texas?"..JFK, Rice Stadium, 1962

/             \

References: http://www.spaceweather.com/images2011/03oct11/cometandcme.gif?PHPSESSID=tvcgvkmb666e1k717oadp68314

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