Posts Tagged ‘CME’

NASA STEREO Observes One Of The Fastest CMEs On Record



On July 23, 2012, a massive cloud of solar material erupted off the sun’s right side, zooming out into space, passing one of NASA’s Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft along the way. Using the STEREO data, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. clocked this giant cloud, known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME, as traveling between 1,800 and 2,200 miles per second as it left the sun.

Conversations began to buzz and the emails to fly: this was the fastest CME ever observed by STEREO, which since its launch in 2006 has helped make CME speed measurements much more precise. Such an unusually strong bout of space weather gives scientists an opportunity to observe how these events affect the space around the sun, as well as to improve their understanding of what causes them.

“Between 1,800 and 2,200 miles per second puts it without question as one of the top five CMEs ever measured by any spacecraft,” says solar scientist Alex Young at Goddard. “And if it’s at the top of that velocity range it’s probably the fastest.”

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Solar ‘Climate Change’ Could Cause Rougher Space Weather

March 29, 2012 1 comment

Recent research shows that the space age has coincided with a period of unusually high solar activity, called a grand maximum. Isotopes in ice sheets and tree rings tell us that this grand solar maximum is one of 24 during the last 9300 years and suggest the high levels of solar magnetic field seen over the space age will reduce in future. This decline will cause a reduction in sunspot numbers and explosive solar events, but those events that do take place could be more damaging. Graduate student Luke Barnard of the University of Reading will present new results on ‘solar climate change’ in his paper at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester.

The level of radiation in the space environment is of great interest to scientists and engineers as it poses various threats to man-made systems including damage to electronics on satellites. It can also be a health hazard to astronauts and to a lesser extent the crew of high-altitude aircraft.

The main sources of radiation are galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), which are a continuous flow of highly energetic particles from outside our solar system and solar energetic particles (SEPs), which are accelerated to high energies in short bursts by explosive events on the sun. The amount of radiation in the near-Earth environment from these two sources is partly controlled in a complicated way by the strength of the Sun’s magnetic field.

There are theoretical predictions supported by observational evidence that a decline in the average strength of the Sun’s magnetic field would lead to an increase in the amount of GCRs reaching near-Earth space. Furthermore there are predictions that, although a decline in solar activity would mean less frequent bursts of SEPs, the bursts that do occur would be larger and more harmful.

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Spacecraft Observe Impact of Powerful Solar Storm

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

For the first time, instrumentation aboard two NASA missions operating from complementary vantage points watched as a powerful solar storm spewed a two million-mile-per-hour stream of charged particles and interacted with the invisible magnetic field surrounding Earth, according to a paper published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The spacecraft, NASA’s Two Wide-angle Imaging Neutral-atom Spectrometers (TWINS) and Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), observed the impact from inside and outside the Earth’s magnetosphere, respectively. The energetic neutral atom (ENA) cameras aboard each spacecraft enabled global imaging of the magnetosphere, the invisible bubble that protects Earth from the majority of charged particles from the Sun, as it compressed in response to sharply faster solar wind.

The storm, observed April 5, 2010, also is thought to have caused an important communications satellite, Galaxy-15, to founder and drift, taking almost a year to return to its station.

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Storms From the Sun

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Space weather starts at the sun. It begins with an eruption such as a huge burst of light and radiation called a solar flare or a gigantic cloud of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME). But the effects of those eruptions happen at Earth, or at least near-Earth space. Scientists monitor several kinds of space “weather” events — geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms, and radio blackouts – all caused by these immense explosions on the sun.

One of the most common forms of space weather, a geomagnetic storm refers to any time Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, undergoes sudden and repeated change. This is a time when magnetic fields continually re-align and energy dances quickly from one area to another.

Geomagnetic storms occur when certain types of CMEs connect up with the outside of the magnetosphere for an extended period of time. The solar material in a CME travels with its own set of magnetic fields. If the fields point northward, they align with the magnetosphere’s own fields and the energy and particles simply slide around Earth, causing little change. But if the magnetic fields point southward, in the opposite direction of Earth’s fields, the effects can be dramatic. The sun’s magnetic fields peel back the outermost layers of Earth’s fields changing the whole shape of the magnetosphere. This is the initial phase of a geomagnetic storm.

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Geomagnetic Storm Strength Increases

Geomagnetic storms due to coronal mass ejections (CMEs) earlier in the week have increased in strength, and are now rated a G3 on a scale from G1 to G5.

This space weather is due to the March 7 activity from the sun that caused rapid changes to the shape of Earth’s magnetosphere – the bubble of protective magnetic fields surrounding the planet — resulting in a geomagnetic storm. As of March 8, the storm was fairly mild since the magnetic fields from the CMEs were partially aligned with Earth’s own and thus slid around the magnetosphere. However, the geomagnetic storm has increased because the magnetic fields of the CMEs have now changed direction such that they can more easily deposit magnetic energy and radiation into Earth’s environment.

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Another Major Flare – Class X5

March 7, 2012 2 comments

Big sunspot AR1429 has unleashed another major flare–an X5-class eruption on March 7th at 00:28 UT.   As a result of the blast, a radiation storm is underway and a CME will likely hit Earth’s magnetic field in a day or so. Geomagnetic storms are already in progress at high latitudes due to earlier eruptions from the active sunspot.  Last night, auroras were spotted over several northern-tier US states including Michigan and Wisconsin.  Check for updates and images.

GEOMAGNETIC STORM UPDATE: A CME propelled toward Earth by this morning’s X5-class solar flare is expected to reach our planet on March 8th at 0625 UT (+/- 7 hr). Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, who prepared the CME’s forecast track, say the impact could spark a strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm. Sky watchers at all latitudes should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text,phone.

A mild geomagnetic storm is already underway, following a lesser CME impact on March 7th around 0400 UT. Shortly after the cloud arrived, a burst of Northern Lights appeared over the US-Canadian border.

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New X2 Solar Flare & Asteroid Flyby

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Asteroid Flyby

Newly-discovered asteroid 2012 BX34 is flying past Earth today only 77,000 km (0.2 lunar distances) away. There is no danger of a collision with the 14-meter wide space rock.


X2 Solar Flare

Departing sunspot 1402 unleashed an X2-class solar flare today, Jan. 27th, at 18:37 UT. Sunspot 1402 is rotating onto the far side of the sun, so the blast site was not facing Earth. Nevertheless, energetic protons accelerated by the blast are now surrounding our planet, and an intensifying S1-class radiation storm is in progress.


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Improved Forecasting to Coincide with Peak in Solar Activity

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

After years of relative somnolence, the sun is beginning to stir. By the time it’s fully awake in about 20 months, the team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., charged with researching and tracking solar activity, will have at their disposal a greatly enhanced forecasting capability.

Goddard’s Space Weather Laboratory recently received support under NASA’s Space Technology Program Game Changing Program to implement “ensemble forecasting,” a computer technique already used by meteorologists to track potential paths and impacts of hurricanes and other severe weather events.

Instead of analyzing one set of solar-storm conditions, as is the case now, Goddard forecasters will be able to simultaneously produce as many as 100 computerized forecasts by calculating multiple possible conditions or, in the parlance of Heliophysicists, parameters. Just as important, they will be able to do this quickly and use the information to provide alerts of space weather storms that could potentially be harmful to astronauts and NASA spacecraft.

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MSL’s RAD Measures Radiation from Solar Storm

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

The largest solar particle event since 2005 hit the Earth, Mars and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft travelling in-between, allowing the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector to measure the radiation a human astronaut could be exposed to en route to the Red Planet.

On Sunday, a huge coronal mass ejection erupted from the surface of the sun, spewing a cloud of charged particles in our direction, causing a strong “S3” solar storm. A NASA Goddard Space Weather Lab animation of the CME illustrates how the disturbance impacts Earth, Mars and several spacecraft. Solar storms can affect the Earth’s aurorae, satellites, air travel and GPS systems; no harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event.


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Almost X-Flare & Incoming CME

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

This morning, Jan. 23rd around 0359 UT, big sunspot 1402 erupted, producing a long-duration M9-class solar flare. The explosion’s M9-ranking puts it on the threshold of being an X-flare, the most powerful kind. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare’s extreme ultraviolet flash.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft detected a CME rapidly emerging from the blast site: movie. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the leading edge of the CME will reach Earth on Jan. 24 at 14:18UT (+/- 7 hours). Their animated forecast track shows that Mars is in the line of fire, too; the CME will hit the Red Planet during the late hours of Jan. 25.

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