Solar plumes spellbind scientists
May 2, 1996
Web posted at: 9:10 p.m. EDT
(CNN) -- New pictures from NASA that show the atmosphere of the sun may have scientists rethinking what they know about the sun and its impact on earth.
The images, taken from the recently launched Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, show long, spike-like plumes shooting off from the polar regions of the sun.
Scientists hope studies of the plumes will tell them more about the solar wind, waves of electrically charged particles from the sun that bombard earth and disrupt communications and power services.
Until now, the sun's poles were thought to be relatively free of the intense electromaganetic energy that causes sunspots and solar flares.
The plumes were particularly unexpected because scientists were not predicting another active sunspot cycle until about the year 2000.
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