Category Archives: coronal mass ejection

Solar Cycle 24 And Solar Wind Storm

Solar Cycle 24 activity, using Sunspots as the proxy, is slowing down considerably. The International number for March was 38.4. The smoothed International Sunspot number is estimated at 56.1. The March number will not be official for another 6 months. The chart below, the black line, labeled Ri is the International number which is the sum of the Rnorth (red) and Rsouth (green) Sunspot numbers.


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Mayan Apocalypse And Earth’s Magnetic Field Reversal

NASA issued a bulletin that reviews the worried inquires people have made relative to the Mayan Apocalypse.  The “apocalypse” is that the Earth will end on 21 December 2012  when the Mayan 5125 year Long Count calendar ends. NASA said that a catastrophic celestial collision between Earth and the mythical planet Nibiru or  a disastrous crash with a comet are not going to happen.   Nibiru is supposed to be hiding behind the Sun. NASA says there is no planet hiding behind the Sun.  NASA also: “… rejected apocalyptic theories about unusual alignments of the planets, or that the Earth’s magnetic poles could suddenly “flip.”polarflips285px-Geomagnetic_polarity_late_Cenozoic
I am intrigued by the magnetic field flip. The North and South magnetic poles have flipped a number of times over the 5 billion year history of the Earth.  But generally scientists concur that the most recent flip occurred some 800,000+ years ago.  There are people that believe the magnetic poles have flipped much more recently.  One author, Robert Felix says, for example, that 11,000 years ago as well as 23,000 and 33,500 years ago, the polarity flipped.  He correlates these times with ice ages, eruptions of super volcanos and species mutations.
The legend on the chart to the right: Geomagnetic polarity during the late Cenozoic Era. Dark areas denote periods where the polarity matches today’s polarity, light areas denote periods where that polarity is reversed. (from Wikipedia–Click on chart to improve clarity)

NASA’s Stereo Mission Captures CME–Fastest Ever Recorded

On 23 July 2012, NASA’s Stereo **Mission spacecraft recorded a coronal mass ejection (CME).   The cloud of solar material ejected from the Sun sped out into space at a speed of “between 1,800 and 2,000 miles per second”.  That translates to about 7.2 million miles per hour or about 1.1% of the speed of light.  NASA says it is probably the fastest CME ever measured by any spacecraft.  Incredibly,  it is said that, on average,  the mass ejected into space is  1.6×1012kg.   A video of the  23 July CME can be seen by clicking here.

From the NASA announcement of this event:

“Measuring a CME at this speed, traveling in a direction safely away from Earth, represents a fantastic opportunity for researchers studying the sun’s effects. Rebekah Evans is a space scientist working at Goddard’s Space Weather Lab, which works to improve models that could some day be used to improve predictions of space weather and its effects. She says that the team categorizes CMEs for their research in terms of their speed, with the fastest ones – such as this one — labeled “ER” for Extremely Rare.”

**The STEREO mission consists of two spacecraft with orbits that for most of their journey give them views of the sun that cannot be had from Earth. Watching the sun from all sides helps improve our understanding of how events around the sun are connected, as well as gives us glimpses of activity we might not otherwise see.


Solar Cycle 24 Update July 2012

Solar Cycle24 July sunspot and F 10.7cm radio flux numbers are up slightly from June.  Pretty much in line with the activity projection and much below that of Solar Cycle 23. (Click on Graphs for Clarity)

Large Filament on the Sun

The Sun currently has a filament that stretches more that 400,000km across the face. Filaments are formed in magnetic loops that hold relatively cool, dense gas suspended above the surface of the Sun. Because they are cooler than the photosphere they can look dark.

courtesy of

But when viewed in profile they look like a giant loop, called a prominence.

courtesy of NASA

Occasionally when these filaments collapse,  a coronal mass ejection (CME) can occur.   Because the filament is looking directly at the Earth,  a CME could cause problems.   Lets hope this does not happen.