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Coronal Mass Ejection Heading Towards Earth

August 3, 2010

People dwelling at higher altitudes are in for some solar treats on Aug 3rd and 4th. On August 1st, a trio of solar activity was recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. One of the sunspots gave rise to a solar flare and simultaneously a huge magnetic filament also erupted. Both the phenomena though unconnected happened at the same time as can be seen in the short video below. On the left side of the video, solar flare erupting from the sun spot can be seen, while on the right top corner eruption of the magnetic filament can be seen. This solar flare eruption also resulted in coronal mass ejections or CME which is heading directly towards earth. CME basically consists of tens of billions of tons of high energetic plasma matter, charged particles, which are currently travelling at the speed of millions of miles an hour and are expected to reach earth anytime during today and tomorrow. CME interact with earth’s magnetic field and create geomagnetic storm which can interfere with our satellite transmission system. On the plus side, CME also result in generation of beautiful Aurora in the poles. As explained in my earlier post, energetic charged particles move towards poles and they interact with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere resulting in green and red Aurora displays. Usually, Auroras are visible in the upper atmosphere, but large amount of CME can result in fairly visible Aurora displays in lower atmosphere as well. So, people living in northern US and other higher altitude regions in northern hemisphere might be able to get glimpse of this phenomena, also called as Northern Lights, so watch out for some spectacular display of dancing green and red lights in the sky. This event also signifies that Sun is waking up after a period of lull. Solar cycle follows a period of 11 years where it goes through solar maximum and minimum; the next solar maximum is expected to be in 2013.

Movie Picture and News Credit: NASA/ Solar Dynamics Observatory

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