Solar storms affect Earth occasionally, if indirectly. The flares and tsunami-like waves that sweep over the sun’s surface can disable satellites and down power grids. Now it seems they can have a more concrete impact on objects that cross their path. For the first time ever, NASA scientists captured images of a comet colliding with a coronal mass ejection and losing its plasma tail in the process. In the comet’s case, the same ejections that disrupt radio communications triggered magnetic reconnection, shoving together opposing magnetic fields surrounding the comet and causing the tail to rip off during the subsequent burst of energy.
The image above isn’t much to look out, but researchers spliced together a series of pictures taken by NASA’s STEREO satellite into a terrific movie of the collision, check it out here.—Abby Seiff