An icy comet with estimated size of few tens of meters plunged into the Sun on August 19/20, 2013 but just before it dissipated, a far-side region on the Sun expelled a magnificent full-halo CME.
Today's comet belonged to Kreutz Sungrazer family which are fragments from a breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. A few of those fragments pass by the Sun and disintegrate there every day but every now and then a bigger one comes along and gets noticed.
Video shows final approach of today's comet toward the Sun. The sungrazing comet is in the foreground and the far-side CME is behind it. At the end of the video you can see a large filament eruption and bright CME generated early Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.
With all the technology that became available to the public eye in past several years, this solar cycle, and its current double peaked maximum, is putting a show worth remembering. It is a rather weak solar cycle though, or has been so far, with low count of large X-class solar flares and mostly minor to moderate geomagnetic storms.
And while Sun's northern hemisphere action seems to have completely faded away, southern hemisphere is now cracking with events.
After some quiet time, the Sun erupted with moderate M1.5 solar flare on August 12. Then, on August 17, we saw two M-class solar flares erupting within an hour (M3.3 + M1.5). A small "kamikaze" sungrazing comet decided to plunge into the Sun and became visible on SOHO Lasco C3 coronagraph at 07:54 UTC on August 18th. Just before we saw last of him, during late hours of August 19th, a full-halo CME erupted from region located on the far-side of the Sun. At about 8:50 UTC on Tuesday, August 20, a large solar filament erupted generating bright CME. This latest event is forecast to bring a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on Friday, August 23rd.
Can sungrazing comets cause solar flares and CME's?
An excerpt from Thunderbolts article:
SOHO scientists make the point explicit in their discussion of sungrazing comets and CME’s:
“A popular misconception is that sungrazing comets cause solar flares and CMEs (coronal mass ejections). While it is true that we have observed bright comets approach the Sun immediately before CME's/flares, there is absolutely no connection between the two events. The sungrazer comets — in fact all comets — are completely insignificant in size compared the Sun”.
The statement is reasonable if the issue of “connection” and influence is decided by relative size. But from an electrical viewpoint the disregard for the powerful electric force in space is the greatest single mistake in the theoretical sciences today. How would an electric Sun respond to the approach of a relatively small but strongly charged object? Comets typically display a bright coma extending for hundreds of thousands of miles around the hidden nucleus. They can also entrain an immense envelope of hydrogen gas. We do not normally see the hydrogen envelopes of comets because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs their light. But spacecraft can detect them and measure them. Electrical theorists suggest that the ability of larger comets to hold their hydrogen clouds in place against the solar wind is a good indicator of the comet’s powerful charge.
Featured image courtesy of NASA/SOHO, SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams
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