Our Sun is not our buddy.
Yes, that sounds a tad dramatic and it’s meant to be more to get your attention so you really read this than anything else. Below we have this VERY recent article about a Coronal Mass Ejection (i.e. the Sun spitting stuff out – some pretty deadly stuff!) that happened just a few short days ago.
But what many folks may have missed is also THIS article from July, barely a month prior, when there was some heavy activity and : “Earth experienced what’s called a geomagnetic storm, which happens when the magnetic bubble around Earth, the magnetosphere, quickly changes shape and size in response to incoming energy from the sun.”
Hey, now I’m not one of those folks that believes the sun is out to kill us or that suddenly we’re all about to die or such. In fact I know that solar flares and CME’s are a matter of course – though it’s noteworthy that some folks are claiming an increased amount of solar activity in the recent past. Who knows for sure? Definitely not me, but I like to keep aware of what’s happening, not just the yadda-yadda that goes on here, but also what’s happening outside our little ball-O-dirt because we’re really part of something bigger and it constantly bugs me that folks tend to gloss over that so easily.
Never ceases to astound me though (and feel free to tell me I’m wrong!) but even this deadly aspect of nature, in it’s own way is stunningly beautiful when you can stand back and look at it like we can with modern astronomy.
Anyway, all that among other things is why I’ve run these “Knowledge Bomb” articles – just to share stuff I’ve come across and to hopefully ignite interest in even the odd mind here or there or make someone aware of something they weren’t before. It’s not much, but it’s enough.
On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT.
The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, with a glancing blow. causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.
What is a solar prominence?
A solar prominence (also known as a filament when viewed against the solar disk) is a large, bright feature extending outward from the Sun’s surface. Prominences are anchored to the Sun’s surface in the photosphere, and extend outwards into the Sun’s hot outer atmosphere, called the corona. A prominence forms over timescales of about a day, and stable prominences may persist in the corona for several months, looping hundreds of thousands of miles into space. Scientists are still researching how and why prominences are formed.
The red-glowing looped material is plasma, a hot gas composed of electrically charged hydrogen and helium. The prominence plasma flows along a tangled and twisted structure of magnetic fields generated by the sun’s internal dynamo. An erupting prominence occurs when such a structure becomes unstable and bursts outward, releasing the plasma.
What is a coronal mass ejection or CME?
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.
For more information, visit NASA’s Spaceweather Frequently Asked Questions page (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html)