The Washington Post

Watch: comet collides with sun, then solar blast

You don’t see this every day. On Saturday, a newly discovered comet crashed into the sun. Moments later, the sun unleashed a massive coronal mass ejection (CME), or blast of solar wind.

Watch the video below from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory:

Were these two events related? offers the following commentary:

The timing of the CME so soon after the comet dove into the sun suggests a link. But what? There is no known mechanism for comets to trigger solar explosions. Before 2011 most solar physicists would have discounted the events of Oct. 1st as pure coincidence--and pure coincidence is still the most likely explanation.

It then notes a similar series of events occurred back on July 5, leading it to ask:

Could a puny comet cause a magnetic instability that might propagate and blossom into a impressive CME? The question is not so crazy as it once seemed to be.

NASA says such a cause and effect chain is “intriguing” but, like, concludes it was most likely a coincidence:

At this stage of the solar cycle, the Sun is producing many mass ejections--in fact there were several earlier in the day--and it probably just happened by chance that one of them was around the same time as the approach of the comet. Some researchers have been looking for a more direct relationship, but nothing as yet has come out of these efforts.

Additional reading:

Comet smashes into the sun; massive explosion ensues (VIDEO) (WJLA)
The comet and the Coronal Mass Ejection (Discover Magazine, Bad Astronomy)

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.


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