Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

NASA's STEREO Studies Extreme Space Weather
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 19, 2014

This image captured on July 23, 2012, at 12:24 a.m. EDT, shows a coronal mass ejection that left the sun at the unusually fast speeds of over 1,800 miles per second. Image courtesy NASA/STEREO. For a larger vertsion of this image please go here.

On July 22, 2012, a massive cloud of solar material erupted off the sun's right side, zooming out into space and passing one of NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft along the way. Scientists clocked this giant cloud, known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME, as traveling over 1,800 miles per second as it left the sun.

Conversations began to buzz and the emails to fly: this was the fastest CME ever observed by STEREO, which since its launch in 2006 has helped make CME speed measurements much more precise.

Measuring a CME at this speed, traveling in a direction safely away from Earth, represented a fantastic opportunity for researchers studying the sun's effects. Now, a paper in Nature Communications, published on March 18, 2014, describes how a combination of events worked together to create these incredible speeds.

"The authors believe this extreme event was due to the interaction of two CMEs separated by only 10 to 15 minutes," said Joe Gurman, project scientist for STEREO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Plus the CMEs traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by another CME four days earlier."

The researchers describe the July 2012 event as a perfect storm, referring to the phrase originally coined for the October 1991 Atlantic Ocean storm to describe an event where a rare combination of circumstances can drastically aggravate a situation.

Such work helps scientists understand how extreme solar events form and what their effects might be if aimed toward Earth. At Earth, the harshest space weather can have strong effects on the magnetic system surrounding the planet, which in turn can affect satellites and interrupt GPS and radio communications.

At its worst, rapidly changing magnetic field lines around Earth can induce electric surges in the power utility grids on the ground. One of the best ways to protect against such problems, and perhaps learn to predict the onset of one of these storms, is to make computer models matching the observations of past events.

In the case of the July 2012 event, three spacecraft offered data on the CMEs: the two STEREO spacecraft and the joint European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO.

SOHO lies between Earth and the sun, while the two STEREO spacecraft have orbits that for most of their journey give views of the sun that cannot be had from Earth. Each spacecraft observed the CMEs from a different angle, and together they could help map out a three-dimensional image of what happened.

The authors suggest it was the successive, one-two punch of the CMEs that was the key to the high speeds of the event - speeds that would lead to circling Earth five times in one minute. A CME from four days earlier had an impact too.

First, it swept aside particles in the way, making it all the easier for the next CMEs to travel. Second, it altered the normal spiral of the magnetic fields around the sun to a straighter pattern above the region that was the source for these CMEs, thus allowing for freer movement.

"A key finding is that it's not just the initial conditions on the sun that can produce an extreme space weather storm," said Gurman. "The interactions between successive coronal mass ejections farther out in interplanetary space need to be considered as well."

The researchers found that state-of-the-art models that didn't take the effects of successive CMEs into consideration failed to correctly simulate the July 2012 event. Such information will be incorporated into the models being tested by space weather forecasters. This should lead to better predictions of the worst storms and better protection of Earth and our technology in space.


Related Links
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Sun's energy influences 1,000 years of natural climate variability in North Atlantic
Cardiff, UK (SPX) Mar 13, 2014
Changes in the sun's energy output may have led to marked natural climate change in Europe over the last 1000 years, according to researchers at Cardiff University. Scientists studied seafloor sediments to determine how the temperature of the North Atlantic and its localised atmospheric circulation had altered. Warm surface waters flowing across the North Atlantic, an extension of the Gulf ... read more

China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover rouses from latest slumber

Study on lunar crater counting shows crowdsourcing effective, accurate tool

Spacesuits And Moon Notes Among The Stars At Bonhams NYC Auction

Russia to launch three lunar rovers from 2016 to 2019

The Exploration of Murray Ridge Continues

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Resumes Full Duty

NASA Orbiter Safe After Unplanned Computer Swap

Mars name-a-crater scheme runs into trouble

ORBITEC and Wisconsin Await Countdown for "VEGGIE" to Space on SpaceX 3

Jack Kinzler, savior of Skylab, dies at 94

Orion Makes Testing, Integration Strides Ahead of First Launch to Space

London makes new push to rival Silicon Valley

Tiangong's New Mission

"Space Odyssey": China's aspiration in future space exploration

China to launch first "space shuttle bus" this year

China expects to launch cargo ship into space around 2016

Russian Progress Spacecraft Boosts ISS Orbit

Japanese astronaut becomes ISS commander

Station Crew Preps for Return to Earth, Repairs Recycling System

NASA says US-Russia space ties 'normal'

Proton-M with two Russian communication satellites on board blasts off from Baikonur

ASTRA 5B delivered for integration on Ariane 5 launcher

Proton-M carrier rocket with two satellites abroad installed on Baikonur launch pad

Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services Announces Industry-Unique "Refund Or Reflight" Program

UK joins the planet hunt with Europe's PLATO mission

X-ray laser FLASH spies deep into giant gas planets

Crashing Comets Explain Surprise Gas Clump Around Young Star

Every red dwarf star has at least one planet

Heat-Based Technique Offers New Way to Measure Microscopic Particles

A brake for spinning molecules

In the lab, scientists coax E. coli to resist radiation damage

Reducing debris threat from satellite batteries

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.