The path of an October 2014 solar eruption was tracked by ten different spacecraft, including Curiosity on the surface of Mars, as its blast moved outward through the solar system.
The measurements give an indication of the speed and direction of travel of the CME [Coronal Mass Ejection], which spread out over an angle of at least 116 degrees to reach Venus Express and STEREO-A on the eastern flank, and the spacecraft at Mars and Comet 67P Churyumov–Gerasimenko on the western flank.
From an initial maximum of about 1000 kilometers per second (621 miles per second) estimated at the sun, a strong drop to 647 kilometers per second (402 miles per second) was measured by Mars Express three days later, falling further to 550 kilometers per second (342 miles per second) at Rosetta after five days. This was followed by a more gradual decrease to 450–500 kilometers per second (280-311 miles per second) at the distance of Saturn a month since the event.
The CME was first detected by solar observatories Proba-2, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, and STEREO-A.It was then tracked as it moved outward by Venus Express, Mars Express, MAVEN, Mars Odyssey, Curiosity, Rosetta, Cassini, and even New Horizons and Voyager 2.
On my last appearance on Coast to Coast, I was specifically asked if the probes to Venus, Mars, and other planets have the capability to track solar events. I knew that the Voyager spacecraft had equipment to do this, but was unsure about other planetary probes. This article answers that question.
An alert has been issued so that the electrical grids can been properly prepared to avoid damage by the impact of these two coronal mass ejections (CME) against the Earth’s magnetic field.
The first of the two CMEs predicted to arrive today made its appearance right on time. G1 ((Minor) geomagnetic storming is expected to begin within the next few hours with a maximum projected level of G2 (Moderate) storms for September 12th. A G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch is still in effect for September 13th due to the combined influence of this CME and the one projected to arrive late on the 12th. G1 (Minor) storming is likely to continue into September 14th. In addition, the S1 (Minor) solar radiation storm that is in progress as a result of the eruption on September 10th is expected to persist for the next few days with a possible slight increase with the arrival of the CMEs. Keep in mind that the forecast periods listed are in Universal Time so aurora watchers in the northern U.S. should be looking for possible activity tonight through Saturday night.
While there has been a lot of fear-mongering about these two CMEs, I expect that the only consequences we will see from both, the biggest to hit the Earth during this solar maximum, will be the possibility that the northern lights might be visible in places farther south than normal.
The Sun’s sunspot production might be down, but we are still in the solar maximum, weak as it is, and this last week the Sun has been producing the strongest flares in years. The sunspot producing these flares is now rotating into a position where any further flares will be aimed at the Earth. Should be interesting.
No need to panic. Not only is the storm still relatively mild compared to past eruptions, the airline and electrical industries are actually well prepared for this event. However, if you want to see the aurora, this will probably be a good opportunity.
Though it is important to prepare for these solar storms, don’t expect them to do much harm. Power companies use the warnings to protect their grids. What you can expect is an increased chance of seeing the aurora at lower latitudes.
Not surprisingly, these stories always happen about the same time our federal bureaucracy puts together a one day June propaganda event called the Space Weather Enterprise Forum, designed to sell to journalists the idea that we are all gonna die if we don’t spend gazillions of dollars building satellites for tracking the sun’s behavior. Along with this conference come numerous press releases, written by the conference’s backers. Here for example is a quote from a press release emailed to me and many journalists:
Recent activity on the Sun, captured in stunning imagery from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the resulting threat of significant radiation storms and radio blackouts here on Earth are vivid reminders of our need to better understand the science, improve our forecasts and warnings, and better prepare ourselves for severe space weather storms as the next solar maximum approaches.
The problem for these fear-mongers, however, is that shortly before their forum the scientists who actually study the sun held another press conference, where they laid out in exquisite detail the sun’s astonishing recent decline in activity, and how the next solar maximum will likely be the weakest in centuries and might very well be the last maximum we will see for decades to come.
In other words, the annual effort by government bureaucrats to drum up funding for more space weather facilities has collided head on with the facts.
That there are science journalists from so many major news organization so easily conned into buying this fear-mongering is pitiful enough. More significant, however, is the fact that this annual effort at crying wolf has not been very successful. For years Congress has not funded any new space weather satellites, and doesn’t appear ready to do so in the future, especially with the present budget crisis. » Read more