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New Observation of a Coronal Mass Ejection:

January 3, 2014 Solar System 617
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CME observed by NASA on Dec 16-17

CME observed by NASA on Dec 16-17

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are quite possibly the most terrifying storms in the solar system (yes, even more horrifying than Jupiter’s Great Red Spot). Imagine an explosion that sends 100 billion kg (220 billion pounds) of superheated material storming towards you at  speeds reaching 1000 km/second (2 million mph). That’s essentially what coronal mass ejections are. These events can release as much energy as one billion hydrogen bombs.

In short, these solar events are amazingly powerful and amazingly destructive. And we had an opportunity to witness one of these events recently, on December 16th and 17th.

 THE SUN’S STRUCTURE:

The outer atmosphere of the Sun (what is called the “corona”) is kept in check largely by strong magnetic fields. When these fields are closed (disrupted), the confined solar atmosphere that is ordinarily kept well structured may suddenly release bubbles of gas and magnetic fields. these are called coronal mass ejections. As noted above, a large CME can contain a billion tons of matter that can be accelerated to several million miles per hour/kilometers per an hour in a spectacular explosion.

And this is what we saw just several days ago. Researchers witnessed  a dark clump of plasma rise up above the Sun, twist, spin about, and break away from the rest of our the sun. The images were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, and they  reveal ionized iron that has been heated to at least a million degrees (not so fun for anyone who happens to be nearby).

 Fortunately for us, we are a safe 150 million km (94 million miles) from the searing solar surface and its energetic eruptions.  Additionally, the Earth has a built in defense system. Our own magnetic field (our magnetosphere) protects us from the majority of these deadly solar events. In fact, most of us have seen this shield hard at work in the form of aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) and aurora australis (the Southern Lights). But of course, our atmosphere isn’t impenetrable. In 1859 there was a particularly bad solar storm known as “the Carrington Event.” Telegraph operators were electrocuted, wires snapped and caught fire, and auroras occurred around the globe (they were seen in Colorado, the Caribbean etc.).

MAGNETIC FORCES:

In the images that were captured by NASA,  you can see the effect of these magnetic forces. Click the below video and watch as a massive amount of plasma is pulled about the sun, rippling across the star this way and that over a 12 hour period. Finally, you will see the plasma thrust into space by a coronal mass ejection. Below is just one of the videos others can be found at the NASA site sourced above.

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95 Comments

  1. Chris Collins January 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm -

    How do these CMEs affect life on Earth?

    Reply
  2. Chris Collins January 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm -

    How do these CMEs affect life on Earth?

    Reply
    • Stuart Tutty January 3, 2014 at 5:16 pm -

      As long as we have a good ozone layer going, generally it doesn’t. Beautiful Auroras. Now since man has arrived and created the electrical machines and wiring, now that can cause problems as power outages in Quebec a decade or so ago showed and it was caused by the sun.

      Reply
    • Chris Collins January 3, 2014 at 5:19 pm -

      Well I live in Australia where we have a gaping hole in the ozone layer. So how’s that going to affect us? :/

      Reply
    • Laznibranko Ciketic January 3, 2014 at 5:19 pm -

      making auroras..

      Reply
    • Zac Crone January 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm -
      Reply
    • Matthew Stern January 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm -

      Actually it is our magnetic field that saves our butt’s from the radiation blasts. Sorta like a deflection field and the auroras are the result of that deflection. Your lack of Ozone I would think would mean increase in Uv exposure.

      Reply
    • Rob Gìll January 3, 2014 at 6:32 pm -

      however you let them!

      Reply
    • Patrick Doty January 3, 2014 at 7:28 pm -

      nothing

      Reply
    • Josh Simon January 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm -

      It does nothing to life. If its big enough and shoots towards Earth it can knock out our electronics though. Google Carrington Event 1859

      Reply
  3. Emma Cannata-Lancaster January 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm -

    They give us pretty aurorae to look at!

    Reply
  4. Phillip Dyson January 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm -

    They can shut down our power grid if the penetrate earths magnetic field

    Reply
  5. Syed Arsalan Ahmed January 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm -

    The heating of our planet, greenhouse effect, OZONE layer etc…

    Reply
  6. Ben Harvey January 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm -

    Sounds like a regular weather day here in Australia..

    Reply
  7. Deven Dunn January 3, 2014 at 5:06 pm -

    I enjoyed your article. you might want to fix it though.. Researchers witnessed a dark clump of plasma rise up above the Sun, twist, spin about, and break away from the rest of [[OUR]]the sun.

    Reply
    • Deven Dunn January 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm -

      or maybe, “the” was the mistake.

      Reply
  8. Anthony Michael Leen January 3, 2014 at 5:08 pm -

    Will a standard umbrella do ? Or do I need to gat something like a Radley !

    Reply
  9. Charlotte McHale January 3, 2014 at 5:08 pm -

    So wear your SPF 5000?

    Reply
    • The Sun January 4, 2014 at 9:38 pm -

      I have made sunburns that have killed people. Skin Cancer? I did that.

      Reply
  10. James Mccallum January 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm -

    Get the mankinis on

    Reply
  11. Alan Gardner January 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm -

    the sun burping

    Reply
  12. Domenico Vincenzo Benedicto Diggio January 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm -

    Uhh

    Reply
  13. Matt Haddon January 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm -

    You’ve gotta watch the video footage on the main website. Amazing.

    Reply
  14. Göran Ericson January 3, 2014 at 5:13 pm -

    We get freedom maybe, and erased from Earth? Too much negative thinking, and this is not so Close. We need Peace on Earth first, to understand these things. Thanks for posting this! :-) (y) Beautiful!!!!

    Reply
  15. Astronoteen January 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm -

    Great post! The magnetic field has two perks: keeps us alive AND brings us the beautiful auroras:)

    Reply
  16. Rachael Ananda January 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm -

    love>fear

    Reply
  17. Connie Price January 3, 2014 at 5:16 pm -

    Great picture so clear .

    Reply
  18. Steve-o Kassy January 3, 2014 at 5:18 pm -

    I cant stop watching that video… so awesome.

    Reply
  19. فراس مومني January 3, 2014 at 5:19 pm -

    Oppaa

    Reply
  20. Michelle Lanette Rhymer January 3, 2014 at 5:20 pm -

    Did you see in the video the gravity pulling the left overs of the storm , back into the suns surface ??? AMAZING

    Reply
  21. Mike Robinson January 3, 2014 at 5:24 pm -

    My mass ejections are nowhere near that big

    Reply
  22. Oscar Jthunder January 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm -

    This is why this stuff are never taught at school, i like science now!!!

    Reply
  23. John Schuck January 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm -

    I had a mass ejection earlier, but it wasn’t near that big. Just as dangerous, not nearly as big though… LOL

    Reply
  24. Andy Thomas January 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm -

    Yikes

    Reply
  25. Dino Antonelli January 3, 2014 at 5:49 pm -

    mirá Andres Cimino

    Reply
    • Andres Cimino January 3, 2014 at 6:04 pm -

      che, eso no me parece algo que se pueda asimilar a un tubo recto con flujo 1D, no?

      Reply
    • Dino Antonelli January 3, 2014 at 6:05 pm -

      jaja que se yo mi amigo leí explosión solar y te etiqueté ajaja

      Reply
    • Andres Cimino January 3, 2014 at 6:06 pm -

      jajajajaja! Esas cosas raras…Aunque si me ayudás a justificar que se puede aplicar el modelo 1D a eso, sale paper con fritas!

      Reply
  26. Lisa Peters January 3, 2014 at 5:56 pm -

    Wow- pretty spectacular!

    Reply
  27. Cindy Morrison January 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm -

    WoW!!!

    Reply
  28. Emmalee Burgess January 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm -

    I can’t even wrap my head around this. Wow.

    Reply
  29. Victor Claudio January 3, 2014 at 6:07 pm -

    Hopefully when I pass I will be able to walk among the stars to take a up close and personal look at suns in our universe. To be on the surface of any sun would be unimaginable and amazingly awesome

    Reply
  30. Nooruddin Sulaiman January 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm -

    Subha-nal-LAH

    Reply
  31. Troy Caduff January 3, 2014 at 6:17 pm -

    And the sun miss the earth

    Reply
  32. Arnaldo Monteiro January 3, 2014 at 6:22 pm -

    explosions in the universe as well, are like water molecules in the Earth’s oceans …

    Reply
  33. Celine Abramschmitt January 3, 2014 at 6:39 pm -

    Wow!!!

    Reply
  34. Raymond Lee January 3, 2014 at 6:40 pm -

    So the sun farts soemtimes

    Reply
    • spiralphoto January 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm -

      I think this qualifies as a shart.

      Reply
  35. Ramesh Shukla January 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm -

    The sun is only an average yellow looking star. How about the super giant white blue stars . The humans can not imagine the powers behind the furious stellar activities.

    Reply
    • Chris Smith January 4, 2014 at 1:43 am -

      No many humans can not only imagine but understand the powers behind these events. The humans, aren’t you one?

      Reply
    • Chris Smith January 4, 2014 at 1:43 am -

      No many humans can not only imagine but understand the powers behind these events. The humans, aren’t you one?

      Reply
    • Shanon Catsicas January 4, 2014 at 8:48 am -

      As nominated spokesperson for “The Humans”…..

      Reply
    • Shanon Catsicas January 4, 2014 at 8:48 am -

      As nominated spokesperson for “The Humans”…..

      Reply
  36. Chris Combest January 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm -

    That’s what she said.

    Reply
  37. Nathan Kaus January 3, 2014 at 7:05 pm -

    In a few billion years the sun will turn into a red giant then were really screwed.

    Reply
  38. Mauro Sequeiros January 3, 2014 at 7:30 pm -

    :o OMG

    Reply
  39. Taileeya Cirson January 3, 2014 at 7:39 pm -

    Ha, Sun fart !!! ^_^

    Reply
  40. Jessica King Vivas January 3, 2014 at 7:40 pm -

    Wow that is cool and scary

    Reply
  41. Russ Stillman January 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm -

    Ummm excuse me NASA>… but is any of this shit coming towards Earth?

    Reply
  42. Rob Chay January 3, 2014 at 10:12 pm -

    Pretty sure it’s hit Queensland, Australia

    Reply
  43. Donny Vaso January 3, 2014 at 10:26 pm -

    Reading these comments makes me want to hang myself. 99 percent of you should be fixed so your stupidity doesn’t get passed on to the next generation. Don’t you feel shame expressing bad Hollywood notions on a science thread? Or in your mind is it really just a explosion out to get us all and no other physics comes into play?

    Reply
  44. Donny Vaso January 3, 2014 at 10:26 pm -

    Reading these comments makes me want to hang myself. 99 percent of you should be fixed so your stupidity doesn’t get passed on to the next generation. Don’t you feel shame expressing bad Hollywood notions on a science thread? Or in your mind is it really just a explosion out to get us all and no other physics comes into play?

    Reply
  45. Wayne Gilbert January 4, 2014 at 7:35 am -

    Dont let them fool you. A large one of these can take out all the power systems on earth and send us back to the stone age for decades.

    Reply
  46. Kushagra Arora January 4, 2014 at 7:41 am -

    Praise the magnetosphere

    Reply
  47. Kushagra Arora January 4, 2014 at 7:41 am -

    Praise the magnetosphere

    Reply

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