A very large Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted from the Sun on September 27th, 2012 at 10:25 p.m. EDT.
CMEs are solar eruptions that send billions of tons of solar particles into space, that then make their way to the Earth in one to three days if the blast was directed that way. This can potentially cause problems for electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.
New experimental research models that NASA is working on estimate that the CME is moving at around 700 miles per second and will hit the Earth on September 29th.
“CMEs of these speeds are usually benign. In the past, similar CMEs have caused auroras near the poles but have not caused disruption to electrical systems or significantly interfered with GPS or satellite-based communications systems,” a NASA news release stated.
“The CME is associated with a fairly small solar flare that was measured as C-class, which is third in strength after X- and M-class flares. The flare peaked at 7 p.m. EDT and came from an active region on the sun labeled AR 1577.”
“The outer solar atmosphere, the corona, is structured by strong magnetic fields. Where these fields are closed, often above sunspot groups, the confined solar atmosphere can suddenly and violently release bubbles of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections. 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 any planet or spacecraft in its path. CMEs are sometimes associated with flares but can occur independently.”
Image Credits: SOHO/ESA and NASA