This week saw the Sun burst into violent life, producing two coronal mass ejections aimed towards our region of space, including a volume home to a number of NASA spacecraft.
On Tuesday the STEREO spacecraft picked up a long duration C-class solar flare emanating from a region of sunspots designated 1690-91. The flare lasted for around two hours during the late morning (UTC). Later analysis showed that there had been a release of stellar material into space, resulting in a coronal mass ejection aimed at three NASA spacecraft – the Kepler and Spitzer telescopes and EPOXI, NASA’s Deep Impact probe repurposed for a second mission.
The CME should reach Earth on the morning of Friday 15th March – or probably round about when you’re reading this article. This size of coronal mass ejection shouldn’t cause damage to the spacecraft as it doesnt contain much in the way of charged particles which interfere with electronics.
A second coronal mass ejection happened a day later, and should miss Earth (and spacecraft) entirely.
The last couple of weeks have been pretty active in terms of Solar activity. although there has been a trend for sunspots to form on the side of the Sun facing Earth and releasing coronal mass ejections after they have rotated out of view. One of these was the Coronal Mass Ejection on the 5th of March on the rearward side of the Sun, from sunspot collection 1678 that headed directly for the STEREO B spacecraft, which recorded elevated solar wind velocity for quite some time on March 8th.
Main Image: The Sun as imaged by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on March 14th. Credit: NASA/SDO