Thursday, June 25, 2015

Earth Directed Coronal Mass Ejection Lights the Skies

Two views of the CME on June 20, 2015 from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO. Earth-directed CMEs like this one are often called halo CMEs, because the material shooting off from the sun looks like a ring around the disk of the sun. This halo can be seen more clearly in the right-hand image called a difference image, which is created by subtracting two consecutive frames to see how the image has changed. Credits: ESA&NASA/SOHO

Earth experienced a geomagnetic storm on June 22, 2015 due to the arrival of an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection, or CME, from June 20. The CME originated at 10:24 p.m. EDT on June 20, 2015. Coronal material exploded from the sun at about 780 miles per second, arriving at Earth at 1:59 p.m. EDT on June 22. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rated the resulting geomagnetic storm as G4, or severe.

A geomagnetic storm happens when the plasma and magnetic fields in a CME interact with Earth’s magnetic field, disturbing the magnetosphere and allowing stored plasma to flow towards the magnetic poles.

The same active region produced two other CMEs in the past few days, which were pushed along by the faster Earth-directed CME from June 20.

Geomagnetic activity is expected to continue to subside over the next couple of days.

As a result of the geomagnetic storm, aurora were sighted in several mid-latitude locations, including Virginia in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photo of an aurora from the International Space Station on June 23, 2015. Credit: NASA
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photo of an aurora from the International Space Station on June 23, 2015. Credit: NASA

The dancing lights of the aurora provide spectacular views on the ground, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun.

Credit: NASA

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