Earth-directed CME exits the Sun at more than one thousand miles per second

June 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

Though it sounds frightening, a recently observed, Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME) will not harm any Earthlings. NASA says that the particles from this particular CME, dubbed the “solstice CME” because it left the Sun on Thursday (the day before the summer solstice), cannot pass through our planet’s atmosphere.

CMEs are fascinating solar events. According to NOAA, which operates the Space Weather Prediction Center, a CME can spew particles containing 1016 grams of matter into space. This particular CME left the Sun at speeds of about 1350 miles per second, which is extremely fast for a CME. For example, a Mars-directed CME detected earlier this month left the Sun at at approximately 765 miles per second.

According to NASA, Earth-directed CMEs can induce major geomagnetic storms. While CMEs are frequently associated with solar flares, there are sometimes detected when no solar flare occurs. NASA also notes that CMEs are more frequent during the active phase of the Sun’s 11-year cycle.  Thus, we should prepare ourselves for more CMEs throughout 2013 as the next solar maximum is expected to take place this year.

CMEs are more likely to impact human activities than solar flares because they eject more material into a greater volume of space, raising the chance that they will affect the Earth. A CME-induced geomagnetic storm can harm Earth-orbiting satellites. During a geomagnetic storm, a satellite either becomes highly charged and a part of it is damaged by the high current that discharges into the satellite, or a part of the satellite is damaged by high-energy particles that penetrate into the satellite.

In 1998, a large region of Quebec temporarily lost electrical power during a geomagnetic storm. Power system failures are most likely to occur at high latitudes and in regions of the world that have long power lines, according to NASA.

NASA says that this particular CME is expected to travel by space agency’s Messenger, STEREO B and Spitzer spacecraft. NASA has alerted the mission operators and has given them permission to operate in safe mode to protect the satellites from solar material.





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