Headlines > News > Coronal Mass Ejection Headed for Earth

Coronal Mass Ejection Headed for Earth

Published by Matt on Wed Aug 4, 2010 11:36 am via: NASA
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On August 1st around 0855 UT, Earth orbiting satellites detected a C3-class solar flare. The origin of the blast was Earth-facing sunspot 1092. C-class solar flares are small (when compared to X and M-class flares) and usually have few noticeable consequences here on Earth besides aurorae. This one has spawned a coronal mass ejection heading in Earth’s direction.

On August 1st, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more. Credit: NASA/SDO

On August 1st, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more. Credit: NASA/SDO

Coronal mass ejections (or CMEs) are large clouds of charged particles that are ejected from the Sun over the course of several hours and can carry up to ten billion tons (10^16 grams) of plasma. They expand away from the Sun at speeds as high as a million miles an hour. A CME can make the 93-million-mile journey to Earth in just three to four days.

When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, it interacts with our planet’s magnetic field, potentially creating a geomagnetic storm. Solar particles stream down the field lines toward Earth’s poles and collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, resulting in spectacular auroral displays. On the evening of August 3rd/4th, skywatchers in the northern U.S. and other countries should look toward the north for the rippling dancing “curtains” of green and red light.

The Sun goes through a regular activity cycle about 11 years long. The last solar maximum occurred in 2001 and its recent extreme solar minimum was particularly weak and long lasting. These kinds of eruptions are one of the first signs that the Sun is waking up and heading toward another solar maximum expected in the 2013 time frame.

6 Comments
Oh, please, Matt.

Ten billion tons is "1,016 grams"? How about 9,071,847,400,000 kilograms?

That's not exactly a rounding error.
Maggie...um, Matt means 10 to the power 16 I think

:)
This seems to be a mistake by NASA, take a look at the source press release, same mistake.
@ MaggieL: Thank for reporting the mistake.
@ NickQ: It should indeed be 10^16

@ everyone it's fixed ;)
Cool :)
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