We've covered some pretty amazing coronal mass ejections (CMEs) here on PopSci, but we might have to crown this one the best yet. Blasting forth from the solar surface at 900 miles per second on August 31, it was captured in all of its tendril-esque glory by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
If the image doesn't look real, rest assured that it is. But the SDO clearly doesn't capture imagery of the sun in the same way the human eye does.
If you saw it firsthand then you had no choice but to notice it, but for the rest of us who weren't so lucky, here's the deal: yesterday a coronal mass ejection, a.k.a. a CME, a.k.a. a solar storm or a huge burst of solar wind emanating from our sun slammed into our atmosphere at about 2 p.m. EDT. That mass of charged particles compressed Earth's magnetic field and sparked a pretty intense geomagnetic storm, resulting in what you see here: breathtaking auroras that are usually confined to high latitudes spilled out across North America, reaching as far south as New Mexico and Alabama.
What a predicted 2013 blast from the sun could mean for the U.S.
By Damon TaborPosted 06.09.2011 at 12:30 pm 17 Comments
On Tuesday, the biggest solar flare in four years erupted from the sun, sending a mass of charged particles hurtling towards Earth. NASA announced that it was an M-2 (medium-sized) flare and an S1-class (minor) radiation storm. The electromagnetic pulse it induced created amazing auroras, but it could also damage satellites and radio communications. What would happen with an even stronger, larger flare? Something terrible...
Prepare to be astounded: the image on the right is in . . . three dimensions
Seven months after its launch, NASA's STEREO satellite has sent back 3-D images of the sun. The Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (guess STRO wasn't a cool enough acronym) charts the flow of matter and energy between Earth and the sun, and maps out things like solar storms and coronal mass ejections--actually useful for us, since these storms and CMEs will be used to better predict the next blackout-inducing maelstrom.So what's NASA been up to while its probe undertakes a two-year photo shoot? Well, it's been typing up the instructions on
how to make your own 3-D glasses. (Hint: it's exactly what you'd imagine.) —Abby SeiffRelated Links:Solar stormMake your own specsThe sun in 3-D