"Solar Tsunami" Pummels Earth, Leaving a Trail of Pretty Pictures
This photo, taken Sunday, August 1 by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows the northern hemisphere of the sun erupting and sending a massive burst of electromagnetic energy, which some are calling a "solar tsunami," toward Earth. As NASA breathlessly described, "almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more." Fear not—it doesn't seem as if this geomagnetic event is going to vaporize satellites or melt antennas or even disrupt any communications at all.
And actually, the magnetic energy started pummeling our third rock yesterday, without much incident besides causing some pretty awesome shows of Northern Lights at higher latitudes.
If you want the science, Discover has a good explanation, as does SDO's blog. But if you're like me and you only really care about whether you'll be able to see some Aurorae, UniverseToday has the good info. Basically the last two major bursts from this event are slated to collide with our atmosphere around 8 p.m. Eastern tonight (at which point, unfortunately, daylight will be an issue for most of us North Americans) and then again at 2 a.m. Eastern / 11 p.m. Pacific. While my colleagues out in Los Angeles might be out of luck, there's a halfway decent chance that the skies could light up as far south as New Jersey, Indiana, Colorado, and mid-California.
Click here for an updated version of the image at left, which depicts where the Aurora is currently showing. The redder, the better (and there should be a whole lot more red nearer those times I just mentioned).
SDO's Twitter and Facebook page are linking to nice Aurora photos from around the globe, and keeping up with the cool event, and there's an amazing video (unfortunately not embeddable) of the massive eruption itself.
More on the solar tsunami from TIME, the Telegraph, and FoxNews, who explain in their article that the sun spot activity has been low—aka, a "solar minimum"— and "particularly weak and long- lasting" over the past number of extraordinarily hot years, which essentially debunks one of the most common climate denying talking points spewed forth by so many of their commentators.