Image of the Day: A Giant Blob of Superheated Gas
If you happened to see a display of the Northern Lights on the night of September 3, here’s the reason why. Three days earlier, this giant blob of superheated gas, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted from the Sun and went speeding off into space at more than 3 million mph.
It zipped by the Earth, jiggling our planet’s magnetic field and sending a shower of charged subatomic particles spiraling in toward the north magnetic pole. A more direct hit could have caused communications outages and power blackouts, and at a time like this, when sunspots mark the surface of the nearest star, CME’s can come along at any time.
When sunspots are sparse, however, some parts of the Earth suffer from unusually frigid winters. You can’t win.