Powerful Coronal Mass Ejection Erupts On Sun's Earth-Facing Side
March 15, 2013

Powerful Coronal Mass Ejection Erupts On Sun’s Earth-Facing Side

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A powerful solar eruption occurred on the surface of the sun at 2:54 a.m. (EDT) this morning. The eruption, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), occurred on the Earth-facing side of the sun and may have released billions of tons of solar particles into space racing their way toward Earth, potentially making impact within three days.

Once particles from this CME event hit Earth, electrical systems in orbit, in the sky and on ground can be affected, with disruptions in service from such an event lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

NASA research models, based on observations from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and from ESA´s and NASA´s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), show that the CME left the sun at speeds in excess of 900 miles per second, a pretty good clip for CME standards. Historically, CMEs at this speed have in the past caused mild to moderate effects on Earth.

The models show that the CME may pass the Spitzer and Messenger spacecraft. NASA has alerted mission operators of both spacecraft about the impending storm of racing particles. However, only minor particle radiation is associated with this event, which could relieve stress from spacecraft operators who fear the effects of the storm of radiation could damage onboard electrical systems.

A CME is a solar phenomenon that can cause another type of space phenomenon known as a geomagnetic storm, which occurs when it connects with the outer edge of the Earth´s magnetic envelope, the magnetosphere. When this contact occurs for an extended time, it can cause havoc on systems that rely on the magnetic field of the planet.

NOAA´s Space Weather Prediction Center is the US´s official source for forecasting space weather and issuing alerts and warnings of potential damaging solar storms.

NOAA and NASA said updates will follow if needed.