Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs)

What a week for solar activity. TWO large CMEs were hurled at the Earth. This is very unusual. During solar activity maximums, such as we have now, there are about 3/week but rarely aimed at the Earth.

These were not record busters by any means but enough to alter the Earth’s magnetosphere. And being only two days apart, the second one hit while the effects of the first one was still being felt.

#1 “launched” on the 19th and arrived the 22nd. From SpaceWeather for that day:

Arriving a little later than expected, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field at 0617 UT on Jan. 22nd. According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the impact strongly compressed Earth’s magnetic field and briefly exposed satellites in geosynchronous orbit to solar wind plasma. Shifting lines of magnetic force induced strong ground currents in Norway

This got my attention! We use Hughes.net for our internet access via a satellite 22,000 miles away. Hughes.net was bought by EchoStar in 2011 and they have a “fleet” of 15 satellites. If the CME damages “our” satellite, we will lose internet access until it is either repaired or a technician re-aims us to another satellite.

We saw little effect on our internet or TV reception (Dish Network, also by satellite).

The second CME hit on the 24th; from SpaceWeather:

As expected, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Jan. 24th at approximately 1500 UT (10 am EST). The impact produced a G1-class geomagnetic storm and bright auroras around the Arctic Circle.

It usually takes a week fro the magnetoshere to recover so this one-two punch had more effect than either alone.

A view from Sweden.

And even an agency in Colorado even had a role to play.

It was a big day at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder because the scientists there once again nailed a forecast, accurately predicting not only the arrival time of the big plasma ball, give or take 30 minutes, but also the relatively modest impact.

Lots more at the Denver Post.

More on historical big CMEs from these sources:

Thursday, September 1, 1859, a 500 year event

March 13, 1989 which caused the Canadian power outage.

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