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Solar Storms - Coronal Mass Ejections

Updated on August 13, 2013
March 2012
March 2012
Solar Flare - Adapted from photo, courtesy of NASA.  January 2012
Solar Flare - Adapted from photo, courtesy of NASA. January 2012
Picture/Diagram of a solar storm impacting Earth and its magnetic shield.
Picture/Diagram of a solar storm impacting Earth and its magnetic shield. | Source
Photo of a solar storm shooting into space.
Photo of a solar storm shooting into space. | Source
March 2012
March 2012

Solar Storm Hitting Earth - A Strong Geomagnetic Storm

It seems a good time to learn more about solar storms, especially since one is hitting the earth this week (January 22nd, 2012). Evidently, it is the largest geomagnetic storm to hit in six years. The sun is, in effect, bombarding the earth with a CME, or Coronal Mass Ejection. With this comes a lot of radiation. It is said, that the level of radiation expected to only cause minor problems with things like satellites, navigation devices and power grids.

Evidently, while this kind of event and the radiation it puts off, could affect systems and cause errors in satellites, they are expected to keep on working. One has to wonder what a larger and greater solar storm could do to such things in the future, in a time when we are so reliant on our satellites. One also can't help but wonder, that if it can effect satellites and power grids, how can it not affect our human bodies? Would it have helped to stay indoors, or in basements, etc?

You can imagine the excitement at NASA, and with scientists everywhere. There is a five point scale they use, and this storm was fore-casted to be about a G-2 or G-3. The NOAA measures it as an S3, or "strong." At least it isn't to the severe, or extreme level that it could go to. We of course, are somewhat protected because of earth's magnetic field. Just another reason that it is a great thing to live on the planet earth, as opposed to anywhere else in the galaxy or universe! Had this storm rated a 4 or a 5, then our Earth's weather could be more affected by it. I am glad it wasn't that strong.

As far as worrying about the radiation levels, some scientists are saying we don't need to worry about it. If you happened to be on a flight path with a polar route, that may not be a good thing, but other than that there shouldn't be cause for alarm. Also, those kinds of flights, since they will be affected by the radiation, will be diverted or canceled. They could have had possible communication issues, and that isn't worth the risk. This is what we saw happening at least on a small scale, as I watched and read the news today.

Sunday the 22nd of January, was when the storm was set off. There was a chain of events that caused this particular solar storm. It started with a solar flare, which occurs all the time in every solar cycle. This solar flare was somehow connected to a coronal mass ejection, which also is a fairly common occurrence. A coronal mass ejection is a combination of huge bursts of solar wind, light isotope plasma, and magnetic fields rising above the solar corona (or being released into space). They have found that most ejections come from the more active regions on the sun's surface. An example of this would be a grouping of sunspots that are often associated with flares. This particular ejection however, was extra large, and it sent a cloud of plasma with a magnetic field with it. It was sent toward the earth at an amazing speed, of somewhere near four million miles per hour!

One report said that within about one hour, the earth began to experience some of the radiation put off by the solar storm on Sunday. Evidently the ones that "escape", head off towards the earth at the speed of light. This is what caused the geomagnetic storm that I only barely heard about in the news. I was able to find out more about it searching for news on it on the Internet. This geomagnetic storm was expected to last one day. By the time I heard about this whole event, it had already hit the planet one hour and a half prior.

In looking at the size of the solar storm, it looks like it could be the size of Saturn or even Jupiter. One thing is for sure, it is a massive solar storm. I think its fascinating to keep up with things like this, and I hope to always keep up on this sort of news. As a person that has experienced a little of what black outs can be like in California, it can potentially have a huge impact on our societies.

This Coronal Mass Ejection was expected to reach the earth about 9am ET, and continue on into Wednesday, January 25. It is possible that people could see auroras as far south as New York.

Prediction of Solar Activity and the Future

It is now easier than ever to predict these coronal mass ejections and other star activity. They are watching the surface all the time, which I am glad for, considering we are very small compared to the massiveness of the sun. They were only off by 13 minutes, I read in one report, in regards to the effects hitting the earth. There were some disruptions to spacecraft and power grids. Scientists are now saying that as the sun is coming out of its eleven year dormant cycle, we can expect to see an increase in activity like this. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections alike will be increasing. It is good for us to know on earth, especially if they are larger than the last ones so people can respond accordingly.

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Some flights were cancelled from the US and Asia, as the higher altitude flights can have more radiation exposure nearer the poles.

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Some Flights Cancelled

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Poll on Solar Flares and Storms

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    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Gregorious, that is so true. It is quite a force to be reckoned with I think! When we see things like solar flares to the degree we have in the sun, we begin to realize just how massive and powerful it is.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Have a great day.

    • Gregorious profile image

      Gregorious 

      6 years ago

      A very informative hub. People are so used to sun being a static thing in the sky that they don't realize just how big and powerful and dangerous it can be.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Bongani Claude, They can predict this sort of thing, before it happens, but I am not sure how long before. The more meticulously they study this star, the more they are able to predict. For instance, the arrival of the affects of this solar storm was off by only 13 minutes, which isn't bad! From what I know, they watch the most active spots on the sun, to know these things. These spots flare up, and on occasion have the same things trigger them into solar flares that I mentioned above in the hub. It is a good question, and I am updating some of this information above as well, like that they are expecting it to increase in frequency. Thank you for your comment.

      Hi Seeker 7, I totally agree with you. It kind of blows my mind to see video and understand more of what is going on with the sun and other starts and heavenly bodies out in space. The, we compare the size of the sun against the size of the earth, and its is all the more amazing to me. Thank you for the comment and visit here, it is appreciated.

      Hello Steph, thank you very much! I think its wonderful that your cub scout group went to a planetarium to view the stars like that. It is so good for the boys and their families as well to learn and learn more and more about these things. There are some auroras expected, yes, from this solar storm as well. Thanks for your comment and rate and visit, I really appreciate it. Keep up the great work with those boys, I think a lot of the cub scouts. :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Very cool hub! Our cub scout group recently went to a planetarium to view stars and planets and then we watched a slide show of a number of photographs taken through a telescope, including pictures of solar flares, etc. The instructors told us about Northern Lights (and Southern Lights) which result from these solar flares. Wonder if that will result from the upcoming solar storms, as well? Great work - well researched! Rated up!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Fantastic hub!

      We obviously have a lot more comprehension about the real power our sun has due to photographs/video. But even at that, I don't think anyone of us can really get our heads around just how much power is involved. It's sometimes scary to look at all that raw energy bursting out, but it's also awesome and beautiful!

      Great hub + voted up awesome!

    • profile image

      bongani claude 

      6 years ago

      can we predict these events before they happen, how long in advance can we predict them and how do we predict them.i'm not an astro phisicist but i now understand a little bit of astronomy through the internet

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Kimberly, thank you very much. I think its great you took an astronomy class, as astronomy is such an awesome topic to study. So happy you found it interesting. Its wild sometimes, to imagine our large earth and how it interacts with everything it comes in contact with in space. Compared, its just so tiny. Thanks for your comment.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 

      6 years ago from California

      I like how you put all your information together. I recently took an astronomy class and loved it. Interesting article.

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