Sun Produced Earth-Directed Coronal Mass Ejection On 20 June
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Thursday’s CME was Earth-directed, potentially sending billions of tons of particles into space that may reach our neck of the woods as early as today. While these particles can cause disturbances in electrical components both in space around Earth and on the ground, they cannot pass through the atmosphere and harm humans.
Typically, CMEs leave the sun at speeds between 500 and 750 miles per second. However, Thursday’s CME was quite fast, leaving the sun at speeds around 1,350 miles per second. As the particles from this ejection reach Earth, it may cause a space weather phenomenon called a geomagnetic storm, which occurs when the particles funnel energy into the planet’s magnetosphere. The CME’s magnetic fields peel back the outer layer of Earth’s magnetic field, changing its shape.
These magnetic storms can degrade communications signals and cause electrical surges in power grids. Such storms have also been known to produce auroras. With the sun heading toward a peak in its solar maximum cycle, CME and geomagnetic activity may increase through late 2013; once the sun transitions toward a solar minimum, activity should wane.
Geomagnetic storms of this size have, in the past, been rather mild and experts do not expect damaging conditions from this CME. However, it is possible the particles from this CME may pass by the MESSENGER, STEREO B and Spitzer spacecraft, posing potential side effects to electrical equipment onboard. NASA has notified mission managers to be on alert. If need be, operators can put their respective spacecraft into safe mode during the event to protect instruments from increased solar radiation.
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is the US government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.
NASA said it will release further updates on this event if necessary.
As the sun continues to make headlines during the solar maximum peak year, the moon is showing it can also grab some attention.
On Sunday, June 23, the moon will be at its closest point to Earth in all of 2013, making it appear slightly larger in the night sky. This phenomenon is hailed as a supermoon and will be pronounced as the lunar body will be in a near full moon phase during the close encounter.
Image Below: A coronal mass ejection, or CME, erupts from the left hand side of the sun in this image from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory taken on June 20, 2013 at 11:12 p.m. EDT. Credit: ESA and NASA/SOHO