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.
That gigantic solar flare that lashed out toward Earth on Saturday is "the geomagnetic storm that just won't go away," the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colo., said via its Facebook page today. And that appears to be true. Active Region 1302, pictured above, continues to pummel earth with solar energy and could disrupt satellite communications as it continues turning toward us in the days to come.
Scientific observations often has to do with being in the right place at the right time, whether intentionally or not. In a stroke of good luck last Thursday the sun’s rotation, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, and a sizeable M 3.6 class solar flare all lined up to allow SDO to capture a gorgeous profile view of said flare unfolding in high definition.
It appears Tuesday’s massive solar eruption is already impacting communications in southern China and may disrupt satellites in orbit and electrical grids on the ground over the next few days. The X-class flare is the most powerful seen in four years.
We may spend out days basking it its life-enabling glow, but there’s a lot we don’t know about our sun and how it impacts our planet. So NASA’s Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) was launched to shed some light on the sun, and Sunday it beamed back its “first light” images—that is, the STEREO released its first 3-D images of the sun. Sort of.
A solar storm that smashed into Earth on April 5 went largely unnoticed by most of us down here on the planet, but a group of engineers at satellite maker Orbital Sciences Corp. have been thinking about it ever since. That's the day Galaxy 15, one of their satellites owned by Intelsat, went radio silent. The satellite is still functioning, going about its daily chores of relaying signals around the globe, but Galaxy 15 is ignoring all commands from handlers on Earth, leading engineers to dub the renegade satellite a "zombiesat."
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.