170424 cme full

Solar flare aftermath

170424 cme full
The aftermath of a coronal mass ejection on the Sun.
Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA

Solar flares are often caused by coronal mass ejections (CMEs). As the name suggests, these are bursts of charged particles from the corona, the cloud of hot plasma surrounding the Sun.

Not only can CMEs cause geomagnetic storms on Earth, disrupting radio signals and electronics and lighting up auroras near the poles, but they also disrupt the Sun’s own magnetic field.

This image, captured in ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory over a period of about 20 hours on 19 April 2017, shows the aftermath of one such CME. The bright glowing loops are streams of charged particles spinning along the lines of the magnetic field as it seeks to reorganise itself after the disruption.