Stormy Weather: CME Hits Earth’s Magnetic Field, January 9


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CME of January 7, 2014. The plasma mass is expected to collide with Earth’s magnetic field January 9-10. NASA, ESA, SOHO image.

Space-weather forecasters of the United States NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are predicting that a pending geomagnetic storm has a 90 percent chance of dazzling the northern hemisphere January 9 and 10th, 2014.

As a result, and if viewing conditions are just right, residents of the northern U.S., and those living in the U.K. and northern Eurasia, might see a spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis, a phenomenon also known as the Northern Lights.

Coronal Mass Ejection: Overdue CME

NASA expects a large CME, or coronal mass ejection, of plasma from the Sun on January 7 to arrive around 0800 UTC (3 a.m. East Coast U.S.) January 9, 2014.

Most CMEs travel through space at an average speed of 700 km/s (1.6 million miles per hour).

A NASA announcement reported the CME is the first X-class solar event of 2014. The concept of geomagnetic storms can be alarming, due to concerns about electromagnetic pulse vulnerabilities, but although the CME carries billions of tons of charged particles, the NASA announcement tells us that, “the particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to harm humans on Earth, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

On the morning of January 9, NOAA researchers reported that the CME was overdue. As of mid-morning January ninth, however, telemetry from NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer spacecraft, launched in 1997 to monitor solar and cosmic particles, indicates that the super-charged mass is on the way.

The ACE spacecraft is on sentry duty approximately 1.5 million km from Earth, at one of the gravity equilibrium points known as L1.

According to NOAA’s website, “The speed of the solar wind around Earth could spike to shortly after the impact, sharply compressing Earth’s magnetosphere. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.”

Where Does Aurora Borealis Appear?

Ready to look out for lights in the sky that’ll show up when the plasma mass hits our night sky? Where should you look? According to Dr. Paul Heckert, “The Aurora Borealis or Australis, also known as the northern or southern lights, are the most visible result of geomagnetic storms. During relatively weak geomagnetic storms, the aurora are visible near the poles at high northern or southern latitudes. The stronger a particular geomagnetic storm is, the further from the poles aurora will be visible.”

Spaceweather Alerts Via Cell Phone

Today, a technological spinoff of the international spaceweather monitoring business includes receiving up-to-the-minute information of geomagnetic storms and other events via portable digital devices such as telephones and e-pads.

For a small fee, now provides instant phone alerts which include when auroras occur, when the space station is overhead, when planets align in the night sky, as well as other astronomical and spaceflight events.

If you’re in an area that offers a view of the upcoming Aurora Borealis show, keep a lookout. With today’s technology, your chances of tracking and viewing the Northern Lights are better than ever.

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