The Recent Coronal Mass Ejection (Solar Storm)

Dr. Woozley warned me Friday that there was a high probability for a huge CME – thats a coronal mass ejection – over the weekend. A CME is when the sun throws off a chunk of hot gas, possibly weighing more than a planet, and the temperature is enough to blow out electronics in space and mess up the magnetic field enough blow out electronics on the ground. This really is in my job description, so I went to work. I didn’t report anything on here for various reasons, but after some research, I didn’t worry as much as he did.

Why? Well, lets take a look at I recommend everyone take a look at the sun everyday, and since I like my eyeballs, I use the web instead. Right off the top their x-class flare warning was 15%. (big worry) I looked at it and guessed about half that, but since the CME was hiding behind the sun, I went ahead and took their numbers. Ok, better than 1 in 10 of a big event. So, How big? I looked at the previous events, some previous years, and compared some magnetic field strengths, and decided that an X-class wasn’t going to top 3 on my scale. (A Carrington event is an 11, but the usual number we use for comparison is the October 89 event, a solid 9.)

Ok, so a 3 on my scale can shift the Kp index pretty solidly a few points, if we can get Kp above 5, then we are set for a badass geomagnetic storm. Something we would need to be very concerned about. I checked the current Kp… and it was 1. Well, a 3 storm and a 1 Kp … might make it to 4 Kp. One storm just doesn’t really affect the Kp very much, usually a set of storms, a week of bad space weather… it just didn’t look like it. Ok, so no geomagnetic storm.

How about a solar storm? Below is a picture of the sun during the Bastille Day solar event. A classic 3 on the Hawk-scale.

Image from the SOHO spacecraft of the intense solar activity on the sun taken Oct. 27, 2003, at 9:24 a.m. EDT.

Next is a picture of the sun today.

Now, I’ll agree that the sun’s magnetogram LOOKS like a butterfly chart. With a couple high-density regions (1723) which could produce a particle-rich event. But it just doesn’t have the “feel” of the hot sun of the 89 or 2001-2003 time period.

Current sun magnetic field diagram:

This is a butterfly chart:

AND, since solar maximum is ON NOW, any major solar storm this cycle produces will be produced in the next two or three years.  But… the sun isn’t selling me on a major storm. I decided that while there was a possibility, I’d say it wasn’t going to happen at sufficient energies to cause a major worry.

Now, there was a solar event which did produce a good amount of protons and Kp in the 4 region. There is evidence on the far side that we could see more of these and the geomagnetic field could get a good charge. If it keeps up or gets worse, I’ll be in touch.

However, the aurora in Alaska is lovely, I wish I were up there this week.

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