A solar radiation storm caused by a coronal mass ejection is blasting past the Earth today, an event which could affect flights and GPS system and has already produced spectacular auroras in northern latitudes.
On Sunday, a solar flare caused a portion of the plasma in the Sun's atmosphere to break off and fly out into space at a speed of about 5 million miles an hour. Seen here is the coronal mass ejection (CME) ejection of the plasma cloud breaking off from the sun.
This long-exposure image shows the creation of new solar active regions following the solar flare eruption. The loop structures are made of superheated plasma, each one several times larger than the size of the Earth.
A NASA image captures the solar flare which occurred Sunday night. A solar flare is a burst of radiation coming from the release of the magnetic energy associated with sun spots. The flares can last from minutes to hours. A coronal mass ejection, which can be caused by solar flares, can release billions of tons of matter from the sun moving at millions of miles an hour, according to NASA. The color teal is the traditional color to show light in the wave length that's easy to see solar flares.
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center uses the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft to gather data on solar wind and the high-energy particles given off during a coronal mass ejection from the Sun's atmosphere. The "snow" on this image shows how the burst of protons given off from the coronal mass ejection are blocking out the onboard sensors and camera equipment.
Seen here is one of the Space Weather Prediction Center's forecasts. This model uses solar wind data to forecast the Auroral Oval and the probability of visible auroras in the northern hemisphere. A solar flare on Sunday night caused a coronal mass ejection (CME), where a portion of the Sun's atmosphere breaks off and sends high-energy particles into space. The CME came 10 hours earlier than forecasted but the magnitude of G1 storms was accurate, according to the Boulder, Colo.-based Space Weather Prediction Center, which is part of NOAA.
Just like predicting the daily weather, space forecasters use a variety of tools to gauge the impact of solar activity on Earth. This forecast indicates that the peak solar radiation from the coronal mass ejection will arrive in the morning eastern time in the U.S. today and then the plasma levels will drop off in the following hours. Today, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center said it expects this to be the largest coronal mass ejection since December 2006.
This forecast map shows the extent of the solar radiation on the Earth. The National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center said it has received reports of planes avoiding flights over the North Pole or flying at lower altitudes.