An image from NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite that shows an example of a commonly believed Slinky-like shaped coronal mass ejection (CME) -- in this case a long filament of solar material hovering in the Sun's atmosphere, or corona. This CME traveled 900 miles per second connecting with Earth's magnetic environment and causing aurora to appear four days later on Sept. 3, 2012.
Since the late 1970s, coronal mass ejections have been assumed to resemble a large Slinky -- one of those spring toys - with both ends anchored at the Sun, even when they reach Earth about one to three days after they erupt. But the new research suggests their shapes are possibly different.
Knowing the shape and size of CMEs is important because it can help better forecast when and how they will impact Earth. While they are one of the main sources for creating beautiful and intense auroras, like the Northern and Southern Lights, they can also damage satellites, disrupt radio communications and wreak havoc on the electrical transmission system causing massive and long-lasting power outages.
The data points toward a few other shape possibilities: CMEs are not simple Slinky shapes (they might be deformed ones or something else entirely), or CMEs are Slinky-shaped but on a much smaller scale (roughly four times smaller) than previously thought.
This research was supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation.
Story Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180830113041.htm
Materials provided by University of New Hampshire. Note: Content abbreviated.