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Coronal mass ejections: What are they and how do they form?

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun’s atmosphere — the corona. 

Compared to solar flares — bursts of electromagnetic radiation that travel at the speed of light, reaching Earth in just over 8 minutes — CMEs travel at a more leisurely pace, relatively speaking. At their highest speeds of almost 1,900 miles per second (3,000 kilometers per second), CMEs can reach Earth in about 15 to 18 hours whilst slower CMEs traveling around 155 mi/s (250 km/s) can take several days to arrive, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (opens in new tab) (NOAA).


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