Solar activity surged on Sunday morning, Dec. 12, 2010, when the sun erupted three times in quick succession, hurling a trio of bright coronal mass ejections (CMEs) into space. The LASCO C2 Coronagraph onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded the action (above).
Are these CMEs related? According to images from NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft and the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the clouds emerged from three distinct blast sites separated by great distances. In each case, a magnetic filament erupted--one near the sun's southeastern limb (CME#1), one near the north pole (CME#2), and one on the far side of the sun (CME#3). Because all three eruptions occurred within a matter of hours, the coronagraph images suggest a single 3-lobed cloud; in fact, they are distinct CMEs.
Preliminary analysis suggested that none of the three CME clouds will strike Earth.
Still from video at the top showing the expanding clouds from all three CMEs. Credit: NASA/SOHO