Monday, May 4, 2015

Bright Solar Filament Erupts, Coronal Mass Ejection to Hit Earth

Solar filament erupts into space on May 3, 2015. Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO

A filament of magnetism straddling the sun's southern hemisphere erupted on Saturday night (May 2-3) and hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space with an approximate speed of 473 km/s. Modeling by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) analysts suggests that the CME will reach Earth on May 6. Forecasters estimate a 45% chance of geomagnetic storms when the CME arrives. Filaments are unstable strands of solar material suspended above the sun by magnetic forces.

Solar astronomers around the world had their eyes on this unusually large filament and kept track as it erupted. Both of the coronagraph instruments on the joint ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, show the coronal mass ejection associated with the eruption.

CMEs are huge explosions of magnetic field and plasma from the Sun's corona. When CMEs impact the Earth’s magnetosphere, they are responsible for geomagnetic storms and enhanced aurora. CMEs originate from highly twisted magnetic field structures, or “flux ropes”, on the Sun, often visualized by their associated “filaments” or “prominences”, which are relatively cool plasmas trapped in the flux ropes in the corona.

Last week, on April 28-29, a similar solar filament that extended almost half the sun's visible hemisphere erupted into space, in a large burst of bright plasma. 

Solar activity is expected to be low, with a slight chance for an M-class flare (R1-R2, minor-moderate), over the next days due to flare activity from Region 2335 and the return of old Region 2322. On its last transit, old Region 2322 produced six M-class flares and was likely the source of recent back-sided activity indicated by coronagraph imagery.

A further solar wind enhancement is anticipated midday to late on May 6 due to the arrival of the May 2 CME. A chance exists for minor-moderate radio blackouts.

Credit: spaceweather.comNOAANASA

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