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In recent weeks, the crew on board the International Space Station have been treated to some awesome views of space weather in action.
This view from the space station was captured by one of the crew and shows the multicolored streamers of an aurora over the Southern Hemisphere -- known as the Aurora Australis. With the space station's robotic Canadarm 2 folded outside the space station, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman posted this photograph of an aurora to Twitter on Aug. Looking down at Earth during a solar storm, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted this photo on Sept. The most powerful solar storm of the current solar cycle is currently reverberating around the globe. Launched from the sun on Sunday, a large Earth-directed CME has reached Earth faster than expected. Wrapped in a powerful magnetic field, CMEs consist of huge bubbles of energized gas from the suna€™s superheated corona (the solar atmosphere).
Our planet has a global magnetic field called the magnetosphere, so should a CME hit the magnetosphere at just the right alignment, the CMEa€™s magnetic field can reconnect, causing intense magnetic disruption, injecting the magnetosphere with huge quantities of plasma from the sun.
Todaya€™s storm is so intense that it far overshadows anything that has come before it in our suna€™s current solar cycle. The storm is still ongoing and space weather experts will be closely watching developments.
A giant eruption from the sun that scientists thought would hit Earth in 2014 missed because the sun's magnetic field channeled it away from the planet in an unexpected way, researchers say.
This finding could lead to better modeling and forecasting of disruptive solar storms in the future, the scientists added.
When coronal mass ejections hit Earth, they can trigger major disturbances known as geomagnetic storms, which can in turn wreak massive havoc. To forecast the hazards that coronal mass ejections might pose to assets both on the ground and in space, researchers need to know where they are headed. To learn more about why this coronal mass ejection missed Earth, scientists collected data from 7 different space missions that saw the explosion. Instead of hitting Earth, the coronal mass ejection was slanted toward a zone below and behind Earth. Potential applications of this research include better real-time predictions of space weather. One problem with space weather forecasts is that even if scientists can figure out whether a coronal mass ejection is headed toward Earth, they cannot tell how powerful it is until it hits the planet.
The scientists detailed their findings online Tuesday (May 26) in the journal Nature Communications.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, which monitors space weather, reports two solar flares that occurred Monday and Tuesday are hurtling towards Earth and were predicted to hit the planet last night, with effects continuing through Saturday.
The flares, or coronal mass ejections, are essentially magnetic clouds and can affect cellular phone reception, radio transmissions, GPS signals and, in extreme examples, the electricity grid. A less offensive but just as magnificent affect of a solar flare is the possibility of witnessing a display of the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights.


While the second of the two flares has the menacing description of an X-Class solar flare, experts report the flares are nowhere near the strength required to create traumatic conditions where the electric grid shuts down and vehicles, especially airplanes, stop working in mid-flight.
It’s said the ensuing aurora borealis that night in 1859 was so bright it woke up many Rocky Mountain gold prospectors and could be seen by witnesses in the Caribbean. Recently researchers announced that a storm is coming--the most intense solar maximum in fifty years. We have something similar here on Earth--the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt, popularized in the sci-fi movie The Day After Tomorrow. Solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) explains: "First, remember what sunspots are--tangled knots of magnetism generated by the sun's inner dynamo. When the belt is turning "fast," it means that lots of magnetic fields are being swept up, and that a future sunspot cycle is going to be intense. Like most experts in the field, Hathaway has confidence in the conveyor belt model and agrees with Dikpati that the next solar maximum should be a doozy.
EDT, Tuesday) over the North Americas -- the most intense auroral activity is shown in red. The sun, which has been spluttering out some small to mid-sized flares and coronal mass ejections recently, frequently injects charged particles into our planet's magnetosphere. They morph into a variety of shapes depending on the quantity of solar plasma hitting the atmosphere and the orientation of the magnetic field. EDT), but it has since ramped-up to an impressive G4-class geomagnetic storm, priming high latitudes for some bright auroral displays.
Wea€™ve seen an uptick in solar activity in recent days, culminating in the first X-class flare of 2015 last week.
The speed at which the CME travels into interplanetary space and the alighnment of its magnetic field can severely influence that CMEa€™s impact on Eartha€™s magnetic field. In this situation, the CME is said to be a€?geoeffectivea€? and the resulting geomagnetic storm can be extreme. Approximately every 11 years, the sun waxes and wanes in magnetic activity, culminating in solar maximum, when the solar magnetic field is so stressed that flares and CMEs are commonplace. Storms such as these can have global impacts a€” from overloading powergrids and causing communication outages to satellite damage. 7, 2014, the sun unleashed a major solar flare and coronal mass ejection (the bright spot at center right), but the Earth's magnetic field channeled the worst of the solar storm away from the planet, scientists say. These explosions can drive on the order of a billion tons of super-hot matter out from the sun. For example, in 1989, a coronal mass ejection blacked out the entire Canadian province of Quebec within seconds, damaging transformers as far away as New Jersey, and nearly shutting down U.S. However, much remains unknown about what guides their direction, and therefore whether they might hit Earth. They modeled the evolution of the eruption from the sun, up to Earth, and as far as Mars, where it was detected by the Curiosity rover.
The researchers suggest it got channeled this way by powerful magnetic fields originating from a region nearby on the sun.


It wreaked havoc on telegraph systems, shocking many telegraph operators who were forced to disconnect telegraph keys system from the batteries that operated them, which at the time were about the same size and dimension of jam jars. The prediction comes from a team led by Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
In nearly-two centuries since the 11-year sunspot cycle was discovered, scientists have struggled to predict the size of future maxima--and failed. It is a network of currents that carry water and heat from ocean to ocean--see the diagram below. The 'corpses' are dragged down at the poles to a depth of 200,000 km where the sun's magnetic dynamo can amplify them. After being channeled toward high latitudes by Earth's magnetic field, this solar plasma impacts our atmosphere, erupting into a stunning auroral display. Although the sun is currently declining in activity from maximum that was predicted to have peaked in 2013, it goes to show that Solar Cycle 24 hasna€™t finished with us quite yet.
One thing is for certain, however, if youa€™re fortunate to live in high latitudes, be sure to check out tonighta€™s auroras, they will be impressive.
Scientists expected it would trigger a strong geomagnetic storm, one that could spark radio navigation problems and set off alarms in power systems.
He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Solar maxima can be intense, as in 1958, or barely detectable, as in 1805, obeying no obvious pattern. Just as the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt controls weather on Earth, this solar conveyor belt controls weather on the sun. Once the corpses (magnetic knots) are reincarnated (amplified), they become buoyant and float back to the surface." Presto--new sunspots!
Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. If correct, the years ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica. In 1958 you couldn't tell that a solar storm was underway by looking at the bars on your cell phone; cell phones didn't exist. Even so, people knew something big was happening when Northern Lights were sighted three times in Mexico. A similar maximum now would be noticed by its effect on cell phones, GPS, weather satellites and many other modern technologies.



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