NASA reveals SCARY truth behind Cannibal CME: The worst solar storm offender for Earth

Recently the NASA SOHO recorded a cannibal CME cloud, which devours any CME in front of it. Astronomers believe these are responsible for the worst solar storm events seen on the Earth.

| Updated on: Apr 27 2023, 10:21 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
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Know all about cannibal CME, the phenomenon responsible for the most severe solar storms on Earth. (Pixabay)

In just a few hours, the Earth is expected to witness a G1-class geomagnetic storm. This minor storm will be triggered by a coronal mass ejection (CME) cloud which is going to deliver glancing blows to the Earth. The storm is not expected to be intense. And one of the reasons behind that is the CME cloud is not a cannibal CME. This particular subtype of CME is considered one of the most dangerous solar phenomena when it comes to triggering solar storms. Recently, the NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) detected such a CME, which was luckily moving away from the Earth. So, what makes them so scary and why are they associated with the worst solar storms on our planet? Find out below.

As per a report by, “Cannibal CMEs are great at sparking geomagnetic storms and auroras. When two CMEs merge, the compression creates shock waves and enhanced magnetic fields that can poke holes in Earth's magnetosphere--opening the door to strong storms. Some of the biggest geomagnetic storms in recorded history were probably caused by cannibal CMEs”.

Cannibal CMEs can trigger devastating solar storms

In a detailed sequence of events, NASA has explained exactly how a cannibal CME works. Whenever there are multiple clouds of CME being released from the same location, the cloud coming out later can absorb the one in the front as long as it is brighter and faster than it. As it absorbs the fainter CME, it accumulates the magnetic charge and intensifies further. This is known as a cannibal CME.

Since cannibal CME devours multiple clouds, their overall intensity is extremely high. When they finally strike the Earth, the combined strength of the CME particles easily breaks open the Earth's magnetic field and causes powerful solar storms. It is believed that the solar storm that took place on April 23 was also caused by a cannibal CME.

Such storms can do more damage than normal. They can damage small satellites, impact mobile networks, GPS, and even pose a threat to ground-based electronics and power grids by increasing the magnetic potential by huge amounts.

How NASA SOHO monitors the Sun

NASA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) is a satellite that was launched on December 2, 1995. It is a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the sun, its atmosphere, and its effects on the solar system. Equipped with 12 scientific instruments, such as Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph) and others, SOHO captures images of the sun's corona, measures the velocity and magnetic fields of the sun's surface, and observes the faint corona around the sun.

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First Published Date: 27 Apr, 10:18 IST
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