Is a magnetic storm currently hitting Comet Lovejoy?
A plasma blob billowing down the tail has been captured away from the Comet’s core!
Observers of bright Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) are reporting activity in the comet’s sinuous blue ion tail. And this strange behavior has been testified by a picture of Rolando Ligustri who photographed a giant ‘plasma blob’ disturbing the giant tail far away from its core:
This weird cloud could be a sign that a magnetic storm in underway. And this is not the first time. Observers of comets frequently witness plasma blobs and ‘disconnection events’ in response to CMEs and gusts of solar wind. In extreme cases, a comet’s tail can be completely torn off:
So what are comet magnetic storms?
As described by Space Weather:
[quote_box_center]The underlying physics is akin to terrestrial geomagnetic storms. When magnetic fields around a comet bump into oppositely-directed magnetic fields in a CME, those fields can link together or “reconnect.” The resulting burst of magnetic energy can make waves, blobs, or even ruptures in the comet’s tail. When CMEs hit Earth, a similar process takes place in the planet’s magnetosphere powering, among other things, the aurora borealis.[/quote_box_center]