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Lovejoy and Magnetic Storm

12 January 2015

At http://spaceweather.com Friday January 9th (2014) it is suggested a magnetic storm hit Comet Lovejoy as activity seems to be ocurring in the blue ion tail – a plasma blob billowing down the sinuous tail like stucture. It seems that comet observers frequently witness such events – even though they are not usually discussed in mainstream channels. Plasma blobs and disconnect events are in response to CMEs and gusts of solar wind. In some instances, a comet's tail can actually be torn off the comet. Is this mirrored in mythology – the bald gods, for example, such as Samson shorn of his flowing locks. It is quite a common feature of myth – and doesn't necessarily involve a Delilah.

The underlying physics, it seems, is similar to terrestrial geomagnetic storms, and is not peculiar, as such. When magnetic fields around a comet bump into oppositely directed magnetic fields within a CME the fields can link together or 'reconnect' with each other. The resulting burst of magnetic energy can make waves, blobs, or even ruptures in the comet's tail. When CMEs strike Earth a similar process takes place in the planet's magnetosphere, empowering aurora borealis etc.

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