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Discovering Trailing Components of a Coronal Mass Ejection


Using Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, PSI Associate Research Scientist Elizabeth A. Jensen’s team observed radio signals from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft passing through a solar eruption known as a Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) and discovered evidence for electrical currents and accelerated plasmas trailing in its wake. CMEs can cause communication disruptions and electrical grid failures as they hit Earth. MESSENGER, orbiting Mercury, was on the other side of the Sun from the Earth, in the right place at the right time for this measurement to be made. Understanding the structure of these events is necessary to properly prepare for their potential impacts on orbiting satellites and on Earth.

In the image above, Mercury is seen as the bright dot on the right. Radio signals from the MESSENGER spacecraft probe the near-solar environment observed in this series of images.

This work was supported by NASA and ACS Consulting, LLC. Green Bank Observatory is supported by the National Science Foundation.

August 26, 2018
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