Massive solar eruption to shoot past Earth

The CME as captured by the European Space Agency and NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

An enormous coronal mass ejection (CME) has sent particles into space that are due to pass the Earth in the next three days.

Although the solar maximum isn't expected until late 2013, we're starting to see some pretty spectacular effects: at 2.09pm AEST yesterday, the sun erupted in a massive coronal mass ejection that sent billions of tons of particles into the solar system in the direction of Earth.

It's expected that this wave of particles will pass Earth within about three days, causing a phenomenon known as a geomagnetic storm. This is normal, and will cause no absolutely direct harm to humans.

The sun enters solar maximum every 11 years — the period of its cycle in which it is most active. This means we'll see a rather marked increase in the number of CMEs and flares, with some pretty interesting effects here on Earth.

The coming geomagnetic storm will probably be relatively mild. The energy from the CME will buffet the Earth's protective magnetosphere, which is likely to disrupt radio-based communications and navigation equipment, such as radio stations, walkie-talkies and satellite-based GPS.

Photographers and sightseers in the world's northern and southern regions are in for a treat, though: geomagnetic storms also cause aurora borealis and australis, so keep your eyes on the skies. Space Academy has a guide on the best camera settings for snapping the phenomenon here.

Head over here if you want to see more of our crazy, magnificent sun.


About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.



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