September 29, 2012
Sun Unleashes Benign Coronal Mass Ejection
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
At 10:23 pm EDT on September 27, 2012, NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured an image of a particularly wide coronal mass ejection (CME) that erupted from the Sun.
SOHO is an international collaborative effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona. The SOHO spacecraft also studies the solar winds generated by solar events.
The sun erupted in a wide, Earth-directed CME on September 27. A CME can send billions of tons of solar particles into space. These particles can reach Earth between one to three days after the event, affecting systems in satellites and on the ground. NASA research models estimate that the debris from the CME is traveling at around 700 miles per second and will reach Earth on September 29.
A CME is a huge bubble of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the Sun. CME's disrupt the flow of the solar wind and produce disturbances that can have particularly catastrophic results.
CMEs of this speed don't usually cause problems. Similar CMEs in the past have caused auroras near the poles, but have not caused disruption to electrical systems or interfered with GPS or satellite-based communications systems.
There was a fairly small C-class solar flare, peaking around 7pm EDT from an active region on the sun labeled AR 1577 that accompanied the CME. C-class flares are the third strongest type, following X- and M- class flares.