Powerful Solar storm hits Earth pushing the Northern Lights further southChris Middlebrooks (Author) Published Date : Mar 18, 2015 14:30 IST
A solar storm jolted Earth Tuesday and resulted in an aurora borealis show from Alaska to British Columbia to Michigan, Minnesota, even as far south as the Dakotas and Milwaukee.
The storm released tremendous geo-magnetic energy, which could temporarily disrupt power grids, and GPS.
Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, said two blasts of magnetic plasma left the Sun on Sunday, combined and arrived on Earth Tuesday much earlier and stronger than expected.
The storm was so intense that it far overshadowed anything that has come before it in our Sun s current solar cycle.
The Solar Storm was because of coronal mass ejection (CME) hitting our planet s magnetosphere. Coronal mass ejections typically release huge quantities of matter and electromagnetic radiation into space above the sun's surface, either near the corona, or farther into the planet system, or beyond (interplanetary CME). The ejected material is a plasma consisting primarily of electrons and protons.
The extended outer atmosphere of the Sun is called Corona. It has a temperature of millions of degrees, but it is 10 billion times less dense than the atmosphere of the Earth at sea level. The extremely high temperature of the corona is thought to be associated with effects of the solar magnetic field, which can store and transport energy from lower regions of the Sun to the corona.
Coronal mass ejections are associated with tremendous changes and disturbances in the coronal magnetic field.
When the ejection is directed towards Earth and reaches it as an interplanetary CME (ICME), the shock wave of the traveling mass of solar energetic particles causes a geomagnetic storm that may disrupt Earth's magnetosphere.
Coronal mass ejections reach velocities between 20 to 3,200 km/s (12 to 1,988 mi/s) with an average speed of 489 km/s (304 mi/s).
Because CMEs are initiated in the solar corona (which is dominated by magnetic energy), their energy source is inferred to be magnetic. At present, it is assumed that energy is stored up in the coronal magnetic field over a long period of time and then suddenly released by some instability or a loss of equilibrium in the field.
Powerful Solar storm hits Earth pushing the Northern Lights further south