Research ArticleSPACE SCIENCES

The birth of a coronal mass ejection

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Science Advances  06 Mar 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 3, eaau7004
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau7004

Abstract

The Sun’s atmosphere is frequently disrupted by coronal mass ejections (CMEs), coupled with flares and energetic particles. The coupling is usually attributed to magnetic reconnection at a vertical current sheet connecting the flare and CME, with the latter embedding a helical magnetic structure known as flux rope. However, both the origin of flux ropes and their nascent paths toward eruption remain elusive. Here, we present an observation of how a stellar-sized CME bubble evolves continuously from plasmoids, mini flux ropes that are barely resolved, within half an hour. The eruption initiates when plasmoids springing from a vertical current sheet merge into a leading plasmoid, which rises at increasing speeds and expands impulsively into the CME bubble, producing hard x-ray bursts simultaneously. This observation illuminates a complete CME evolutionary path capable of accommodating a wide variety of plasma phenomena by bridging the gap between microscale and macroscale dynamics.

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