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September 23 2012

Roots of Huge Solar Explosions May Lie in 'Coronal Cavities'

Scientists seeking to better understand and predict massive solar eruptions are zeroing in on mysterious cavities in the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona.

These coronal cavities serve as launch pads for billion-ton clouds of solar plasma called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. Understanding the roots of CMEs is a high priority for solar researchers, since blasts that hit Earth squarely can disrupt radio communications, satellite navigation and power grids.

"We don't really know what gets these CMEs going," Terry Kucera, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement. "So we want to understand their structure before they even erupt, because then we might have a better clue about why it's erupting and perhaps even get some advance warning on when they will erupt." .

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