SUN’s STORMS CREATE SPECTACULAR LIGHT SHOW ON EARTH
Nov. 10, 2004 ó A series of major solar flares on the sun is keeping NOAA space weather forecasters busy this week. There have been two major solar flares, rated as R2 (moderate) and R3 (strong) on the NOAA Space Weather Scales, which erupted on November 9 and 10. Geomagnetic storms at major to extreme levels, category G2 (moderate) to G5 (extreme), have also been observed throughout this period. (Click image for larger view of the sun taken at 9:19 a.m. EST on Nov. 10, 2004, by the SOHO—Solar & Heliospheric Observatory—spacecraft. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit NASA/European Space Agency.)
The associated coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are expected to continue hitting the Earth’s geomagnetic field through Nov. 12. CMEs are bubbles or tongues of gas and magnetic fields that can contain more than a billion tons of matter that can be accelerated to several million miles per hour in a spectacular explosion.
“Right now, we have a bunch of CMEs stacked up out there,” said Court Williamson, an operations specialist at the NOAA Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., which issues space weather forecasts and warnings, monitors solar events and conducts research in solar-terrestrial physics.
The activity is coming from NOAA Region 696. The region will be moving out of the prime position on Friday, November 12 when it rotates around the side of the solar disk but still in an area for possible effects impacting the Earth.
This level of activity can happen at any point in the solar cycle. As an example, in Cycles 17 and 20 some of the strongest solar storms occurred four to five years after solar maximum, which occurs in the years when sunspots are most numerous.
The sun’s activity also is providing opportunities to view the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, in many parts of the upper United States. To determine possible areas for viewing the Aurora, use NOAA’s online calculator.
NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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