Thursday, September 9, 2010

Earth Dodges Another Solar Bullet

Just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept. 8th, the active region erupted, producing a C3-class solar flare (peak @ 2330 UT) and a fantastic prominence. Here is a snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

The eruption also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space: SOHO movie. The expanding cloud is heading into a part of the solar system not currently occupied by any planet--it's going to miss everything, including Earth. If such a CME did hit Earth's magnetic field, it would probably trigger strong geomagnetic storms. Maybe next time...

Update #1: Two new movies of the eruption are available from the Solar Dynamics Observatory--a big picture view in black-and-white and a spectacular close-up in three extreme ultraviolet colors.

Update #2: NASA's STEREO-Ahead spacecraft is stationed almost directly above sunspot 1105. A first-look movie shows a shadowy "solar tsunami" wave racing away from the blast site.

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