CMEs are one of the most influential drivers of solar storms and lead to powerful Geomagnetic storms on Earth. According to NASA, these are large bubbles of coronal plasma threaded by intense magnetic field lines that are ejected from the Sun over a period of time. Although CMEs often occur with solar flares, they can also occur alone, and have the potential to disrupt sensitive electronics on Earth, and also affect power grids. Surprisingly, a CME does not need to hit the Earth to have an impact.
Just a few days ago, a CME passed close to Earth and it caused, what is known as, the ‘Ripple Effect’. According to a report via spaceweather.com, the interplanetary magnetic field near Earth has suddenly rotated nearly 180 degrees. This usually happens when a CME passes nearby. Despite the CME not hitting Earth, it still has an amazing effect on our planet. The Aurora was seen and captured in the Arctic Circle.
The spaceweather.com report said, “Yesterday, March 20th, the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) near Earth suddenly rotated nearly 180 degrees. This type of magnetic ripple is a typical sign of a CME that passed nearby. The “ripple effect” ignited colorful lights within the Arctic Circle.”
What happens when solar particles hit Earth?
As the particles erupted during a CME reach the Earth, they interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and cause the formation of Geomagnetic storms. When solar particles hit Earth, radio communications and the power grid are affected when they hit the planet’s magnetic field. This can cause power and radio outages for hours or even days. However, problems with the power grid only occur if the solar flare is very large.
Auroras are formed due to Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the Sun sending solar flares to Earth. Geomagnetic storms are often the precursor to the spectacular streaks of green light in the sky known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
How NASA monitors solar activity
Of the many satellites and telescopes currently observing the Sun, one is the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). SDO carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very important instruments to collect data from various solar activities.
These include the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of longitudinal and vector magnetic fields across the visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the extreme ultraviolet irradiance of the Sun and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) that provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.