The Sun unleashed a series of four coronal mass ejections CMEs just in two-days (May 22-24, 2010) as the STEREO Ahead spacecraft watched the action.
An almost perfectly circular coronal mass ejection (CME) blew out from the Sun as seen in this video clip covering 36 hours (June 5-6, 2010). It maintained its shape for many hours. A huge solar flare caused a geomagnetic storm on September 1-2, 1859 that swept over Earth.
NASA Science News reported that within hours, telegraph wires in both the United States and Europe spontaneously shorted out, causing numerous fires, while the Northern Lights, solar-induced phenomena more closely associated with regions near Earth's North Pole, were documented as far south as Rome, Havana and Hawaii, with similar effects at the South Pole.
NPR reported that government officials said such a storm could leave millions of people without electricity, running water or phone service. That was the conclusion after taking part in a tabletop exercise that looked at what might happen today if the Earth would see such a storm.
"A contemporary repetition of the (1859) event would cause significantly more extensive (and possibly catastrophic) social and economic disruptions," FOX News quoted researchers as saying.
Solar storms occur when an eruption or explosion on the sun's surface sends radiation or electrically charged particles toward the Earth. Minor storms can interfere with radio signals. A large one can release as much energy as a billion hydrogen bombs, according to the NPR repport.
As far as what ordinary people should do? Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said to NPR that the standard emergency kit containing food, water and first aid supplies should work fine. This is the extreme ultraviolet image of the sun taken by NASA's space telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, on March 30, 2010. NASA released the first public images from the SDO on April 21, 2010.
"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity," said NASA scientist Richard Fisher in a release . "At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we're getting together to discuss."The discussion at the Space Weather Enterprise Forum 2010 held on June 8 in Washington, D.C. focused on the "next peak of solar activity expected in 2013."
The National Academy of Sciences released a report two years ago entitled "Severe Space Weather Events – Societal and Economic Impacts." It warned that a solar activity storm could "could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina."Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity.
There is hope, NASA said, putting satellites in 'safe mode' and disconnecting transformers can protect them from damaging electrical surges. Also NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo. would have the job of predicting solar activity in time that the nation could prepare.Scientists are preparing for the modern day equivalent of such a cycle as the sun's solar cycle is expected to peek at about the same level in May 2013 as it did in 1859.
Many scientists believe that such CME shapes represent huge loops of magnetic field. CME's are large solar storms that eject over a billion tons of matter at millions of miles per hour.
SOHO captured the action with its C2 coronagraph, in which the sun is blocked out (by the circular occulting disk in the center of the image) to reveal the faint structures in the corona. The white circle represents the size of the Sun.Solar scientists met last week to discuss the higher levels of solar activity that are likely as we move out of the Solar Minimum of the past few years.
Spaceweather reports an M2-class flare on June 5-6th that hurled a billion-ton coronal mass ejection into space, and a new sunspot has emerged with a series of its own eruptions. Solar flares have been connected with weather extremes, and there have been some powerful lightning storms over the past few days.
There are proven connections between Jupiter and sunspots, so the fact that the Sun is erupting into flares at the time that Jupiter conjoins Uranus in the fiery sign of Aries is an interesting coincidence.One of the outstanding questions facing solar physicists is the origin of the solar magnetic cycle.
What drives the 11-year sunspot cycle? We have just passed an extended and deep minimum, unlike any in the past 100 years. The late onset of the new solar cycle (#24) and the unusually deep minimum between cycles 23 and 24 took all experts by surprise, which suggests that there is a fundamental lack in our understanding of the origin of the solar activity cycle.
The Sun's meridional circulation is a massive flow pattern within the Sun that transports hot plasma near the surface from the solar equator to the poles and back to the equator in the deeper layers of the convection zone, similar to a "conveyor belt". The flow is rather slow, with typical speeds of 10-15 m/s (20 to 30 mph).
The structure and strength of this meridional flow is believed to play a key role in determining the strength of the Sun's polar magnetic field, which in turn determines the strength of the sunspot cycles. One class of dynamo models predicts that a stronger meridional flow produces weaker polar fields, whereas another class of models predicts stronger polar fields (and a shorter sunspot cycle) for the same flow.