January 25, 2013
Spacecraft Capture A Solar Fireworks Show
[ Watch the Video: SOHO Captures CME On January 23, 2013 ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The sun showed off its strength on Wednesday with two coronal mass ejections (CME), observed by both NASA and the European Space Agency instruments.
NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and both of the space agencies' Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) helped to unveil the activity during the solar maximum cycle.
The CME seen at 9:55 a.m. EST on January 23 left the sun at speeds of around 375 miles per second, which is a typical speed for CMEs, according to NASA.
Earth-directed CMEs can cause a space weather phenomenon known as a geomagnetic storm. These storms occur when they connect with the outside of Earth's magnetic envelope, the magnetosphere, for an extended period of time.
CMEs of this speed have not caused substantial geomagnetic storms in the past, but sometimes they can cause auroras near the poles to be more active.
NASA said these types of CMEs are also unlikely able to affect electrical systems on Earth or interfere with GPS or satellite-based communication systems.
Images released by NASA taken by SOHO block out the sun in order to get a better view of the sun's atmosphere, the corona, and the CME.
The first coronal mass ejection took place towards the southwestern portion of the sun, erupting with a manifest of plasma. The second burst took place towards the northern part of the sun, and made a more standard-arch than the previous CME.
A CME is a solar phenomenon that can send solar particles into space, and reach Earth one to three days later. A large CME can contain a billion tons of matter that can be accelerated to several million miles per hour in a spectacular explosion. Solar material streams out through the interplanetary medium, impacting streams out through the interplanetary medium.
Currently, the sun is going through its solar maximum cycle. The sun goes through 11 year cycles in its life, progressing from solar minimum, to maximum conditions. During a solar maximum, activity on the sun and the effects of space weather on our terrestrial environment are high. This year the sun is going through its solar maximum, but scientists say that the sun is experiencing very few solar spots for this cycle than what had been anticipated.