Release: CME from Sun heads toward Earth

Active region 1944 erupted on 7 January 2014 with an X-class X-ray solar flare accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME). The CME is travelling towards Earth and is estimated to impact the Earth’s magnetic field around 9:00 UT on 09 January 2014. Based on time/height measurements of SOHO/LASCO data the initial CME speed is estimated at ~2353 km/s. The impact of the CME could spark a strong geomagnetic storm through 9 – 10 January 2014 and will be monitored by the South African National Space Agency (SANSA).

A CME is a massive cloud of high energy particles ejected from the surface of the Sun when stored energy is suddenly released. When the magnetic field of a CME interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field it causes a temporary disturbance know as a geomagnetic storm.

The impact of a CME will not harm humans and other life forms on Earth as we are protected by the Earth’s magnetic field. However it can cause disturbances to our satellite communication systems like GPS, radio communications, internet, cell phones and DStv. Major disturbances are expected at this stage.

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Vaneshree Maharaj