Science

Published on June 23rd, 2013 | by James Ayre

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Solar Eruption On The Solstice — Solar Flare And Earth-Directed CME Released On June 20

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June 23rd, 2013 by

A solar flare and a coronal mass ejection (CME) both erupted from the Sun on the summer solstice — June 20, 2013, right around 11:24 pm. The CME was Earth-directed, but not of particular strength — a mild geomagnetic storm is expected. According to current NASA estimates, the CME left the Sun at speeds of about 1350 miles per second. The estimates are based on observations taken by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and the ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

"This image from June 20, 2013, at 11:15 pm EDT shows the bright light of a solar flare on the left side of the sun and an eruption of solar material shooting through the sun’s atmosphere, called a prominence eruption. Shortly thereafter, this same region of the sun sent a coronal mass ejection out into space" Image Credit: NASA/SDO

“This image from June 20, 2013, at 11:15 pm EDT shows the bright light of a solar flare on the left side of the sun and an eruption of solar material shooting through the sun’s atmosphere, called a prominence eruption. Shortly thereafter, this same region of the sun sent a coronal mass ejection out into space”
Image Credit: NASA/SDO

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a type of solar eruption that results in huge masses of particles being sent into space at very high speeds — if Earth-directed these particles typically reach the Earth within 1-3 days. The particles typically cannot make it through the atmosphere though, so humans themselves are usually unaffected, but electronic systems and satellites are often affected.


NASA explains:

Earth-directed CMEs can cause a space weather phenomenon called a geomagnetic storm, which occurs when they funnel energy into Earth’s magnetic envelope, the magnetosphere, for an extended period of time. The CME’s magnetic fields peel back the outermost layers of Earth’s fields changing their very shape. Magnetic storms can degrade communication signals and cause unexpected electrical surges in power grids. They also can cause aurora. Storms are rare during solar minimum, but as the sun’s activity ramps up every 11 years toward solar maximum — currently expected in late 2013 — large storms occur several times per year.

The eruptions also pose a significant theoretical problem with regards to travel through deep space — such as would be necessary during a trip to Mars. Without significant shielding astronauts exposed to theses eruptions could face significant health problems.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



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