NASA announced that a massive solar flare that erupted Sunday should strike Earth some time tonite in the early AM hours (Correction, has struck Earth, details follow).
“This eruption is directed right at us and is expected to get here early in the day on Aug. 4,” said Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “It’s the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time.”
The solar eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, was spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which captures high-definition views of the sun at a variety of wavelengths. SDO was launched in February and peers deep into the layers of the sun, investigating the mysteries of its inner workings.
“We got a beautiful view of this eruption,” Golub said. “And there might be more beautiful views to come if it triggers aurorae.”
When a coronal mass ejection strikes Earth, solar plasma streams down the lines of force in Earth’s electromagnetic field, striking the upper atmosphere, where oxygen and nitrogen molecules become excited like the gas in neon signs, becoming aurorae, and triggering geomagnetic storms. Depending on the strength of the CME, aurorae can grow in size and brightness from the polar regions down to more temperate latitudes.
NASA and satellite manufacturers, however, are far more worried about damage to orbiting satellites.
The interwebs is coming alive with the first major solar storm of SC24. After remaining dormant since 2006, the Sun is finally coming alive.
WATCH VIDEO: A solar eruption sends a wave of plasma hurtling towards Earth on August 1st, 2010. The event was captured by NASA satellites
Proton flux and magnetometer readings are showing beautiful spikes:
The Kp index has hit a 6 on its 0 to 9 scale. Based on this early data, this is classed as a moderate solar storm, not a major one as NASA and NOAA had earlier announced. There is minimal risk of damage to satellites.
UPDATE 2: WUWT commenter R. Gates notes that the Moscow Neutron Monitor is showing a huge drop in cosmic rays coincident with this CME, which is what you’d expect.