The good news for those who like the Northern Lights: Earth is directly on the line of fire for the latest coronal mass ejection (CME, or solar flare) from the Sun. However, this is not an ordinary solar storm. When this CMET relaxed, the monument’s forces tore through twelve thousand miles-deep spots in the sunlight.
‘Canyon of Fire’
The sun’s magnetic field is complex and non-uniform. Its inner dynamo ignites the rope and the plasma pool, twisting and flowing around one another below the surface. But sometimes, the magnetic force gets too much to handle “surface tension”. When this happens, the field lines are snapped into a low-energy configuration and usually some plasma explodes into space, creating a CME. That’s exactly what happened here, according to Dr. Tony Phillips, who runs Spaceweeder.
“Magnetic filaments are magnetic plasma-filled tubes that travel through the Sun’s atmosphere,” said Dr. Phillips. “They easily become restless and explode, throwing their own pieces into space.”
When this particular filament leaves, it leaves a “gorge of fire” twelve thousand miles deep – and more than ten times as long. Here is a close-up, courtesy of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:
NASA astronomers predict that we will continue to see effects from the CME until April 9. Despite its dramatic penetration, the solar flame should be relatively mild in our infrastructure. Nevertheless, we can expect a few nights of extra powerful polar light.
The Sun is currently at the beginning of its eleven-year solar activity cycle. By 2025 the Sun’s spots will be evolving and the solar flares will intensify until they reach their peak by 2025.
“Harmful radiation from a flame cannot pass through the Earth’s atmosphere so as to physically affect humans on the ground,” NASA said in a statement about the X1 class expansion last autumn. This flair is nowhere near that level. “However – when intense enough – they can disturb the atmosphere at the level where GPS and communication signals travel.”
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory will be there to observe them from its high geosynchronous orbit. But we’ve got more eyes in the sky: Solar Orbiter, a joint project of NASA and ESA, will be in a major position to monitor all this solar activity. At its closest, the orbit will fly within 26 million miles of the Sun.
Visit NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to see what the Sun is like at the moment.