Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Plasma Eruption Headed Toward Earth

Earlier this week, NASA scientists got a view of tonnes of plasma spewing forth from the sun and headed directly for Earth.  Wednesday morning the plasma should reach Earth.

AstronomyNow.com tells us how we can make the most of this:

If the magnetic field conditions at Earth are right then solar particles will stream down the field lies to interact with nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere, producing spectacular curtains of green and red light known as auroral displays. Observers in northern latitudes should look north this evening and in the early hours of tomorrow morning to try and catch a glimpse of these beautiful natural displays.

Of course, not everyone will be able to see it.  What's more interesting is just how rare this is.  Not only are these eruptions uncommon, but a certain number of events had to happen to make this plasma burst move exactly in the direction of Earth as it moves in orbit - exactly in the direction of the United States, to be precise.  As NewScientist.com explains:

On 1 August, a small solar flare erupted above sunspot 1092. It would not have raised many eyebrows, except that a large filament of cool gas stretching across the sun's northern hemisphere also chose that moment to explode into space.  Despite being separated by hundreds of thousands of kilometres, the two events may be linked. Images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory hint at a shock wave travelling from the flare into the filament.
It's enough to form conspiracy theories about weapons designed to use the sun against different countries, but I'll save that one for the ScyFy channel.

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