Coronal mass ejection headed toward Earth


Early Sunday morning, the Sun’s surface erupted and blasted tons of plasma (ionized atoms) into interplanetary space directly toward us. When this coronal mass ejection arrives early in the day on August 4th, it could create a spectacular light show, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has reported.

When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, it interacts with our planet’s magnetic field, potentially creating a geomagnetic storm. Solar particles stream down the field lines toward Earth’s poles. Those particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, which then glow like miniature neon signs.

Aurorae normally are visible only at high latitudes. However, during a geomagnetic storm aurorae can light up the sky at lower latitudes. Sky watchers in the northern U.S. and other countries should look toward the north on the evening of August 3rd/4th for rippling “curtains” of green and red light.

More info: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics news, http://www.spaceweather.com/, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/index.html

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