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This animation shows the iron charge state distribution, which has been measured once per hour during time the coronal mass ejection passed the Advanced Composition Explorer spacecraft.
Courtesy of the Solar and Heliospheric Group, University of Michigan.

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection
News story originally written on June 16, 1998

A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun early last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. The SWICS instrument on ACE has produced a new and very exciting data set from this event.

This animation shows the iron charge state distribution, which has been measured once per hour during time the CME material was passing ACE. The important thing to know here is that when a bar shows up above the Fe3+ charge state (where the number 3 would be on the x-axis between the 2 and the 4), that means the surrounding CME plasma is very cold. When a bar shows above the Fe16+ charge state (where the number 16 is on the x-axis), that means the surrounding plasma is extraordinarily hot.

So overall the movie shows us that the CME that passed ACE wasn't made up of material that is all the same temperature. Instead, it was found that the CME was made of an extremely hot region, followed by a cooler region and then another hot region of solar material. This discovery could change what scientists know about CMEs and about how CMEs affect the Earth's environment.

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