Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sun's Coronal Mass Ejection Headed Towards Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- At 11:24 p.m. EDT on October 4, 2012, the sun unleashed a coronal mass ejection (CME).  Not to be confused with a solar flare, which is a burst of light and radiation, CMEs are a phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and can reach Earth one to three days later.  Experimental NASA research models show the CME to be traveling at about 400 miles per second.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured the above image of the sun at 5:06 a.m. EDT on Oct. 5, 2012 showing a coronal mass ejection (CME) spreading away from the sun toward Earth. Credit: SOHO (ESA & NASA)

The CME should reach Earth by Monday, October 8, 2012.   When Earth-directed, CMEs can affect electronic systems in satellites and on Earth. CMEs of this speed, however, have not generally caused major effects in the past. 

Earlier this week, the Sun produced four halo coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in just three days as well as several other eruptions (Sept. 27-29, 2012).   Halo CMEs are called that because the leading edge of the particle clouds appears to expand in a circle around the Sun.  The source of the CME was either near the center of the Sun on the front side (facing Earth) or the far-side.  Three of the halo CMEs were determined to be from the far-side.  The one early on September 28th originated from an active region on the front-side.

The video clip was taken by the LASCO C3 instrument with frames every 12 minutes.