Yesterday, the sun spewed an enormous bubble of magnetically charged plasma towards Earth. Based on observations from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and ESA/NASA's Solar Heliospheric Observatory, NASA reports that two coronal mass ejections erupted at 9:55am EST on January 23, 2013 and one shot towards earth at a speed of over one million miles per hour.
The two coronal mass ejections erupting from the sun on Jan. 23, 2013. Movie credit: ESA/NASA misssion on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
The sun's outer atmosphere, the corona
, is wrapped by strong magnetic fields that trap the sun's plasma to its surface. At times, the magnetic field lines will snap and reconnect at other points on the sun's surface and the now-unbound plasma spews out into space as a coronal mass ejection, or CME. Large CMEs can contain a billion tons of matter and move several million miles per hour; comparatively, yesterday's CME was more of a dribble.
|A picture of the Feb. 26, |2013 2012 aurora from the CME ejected Feb. 24, 2012
Muonio, Finland. Image credit: Thomas Kast / NASA
Earth-bound coronal mass ejections take about one to three days to arrive– sometimes, with quite spectacular effects
. When coronal mass ejections reach the Earth's magnetic envelope
, the magnetosphere, the magnetic field of the CME can warp the Earth's magnetosphere. While more intense CMEs can produce geomagnetic storms that interfere with satellite-based communication and electrical systems on Earth, the more common and more awesome mark are the bright auroras that appear near the poles.
To get space weather alerts (like wunderground – for space!) go to the NOAA prediction center
Or read more about yesterday's CME here
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