The third largest recorded coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun slammed into the earth around midnight on October 28 spurning the intense aurura all the way from California to Goergia. For a short period, the aurora was visible between the clouds in here in Bothell. managed to get some photos before the clouds closed in completely. You can read more about this by clicking below.The aurora was kicked off by what's known as Sunspot 486. A massive sunspot group that spans an area much larger than the planet Jupiter.
On October 25, I took a picture of this Sunspot and its twin counterpart.
Scientests were already amazed that this, and another massive sunspot were both on the same face, this far into the 'quiet' part of the Solar cycle.
The massive size naturally led to complex and twisted magnetic fields which, when they snap, unleash what scientests call a coronal mass ejection. Billions of tons of solar photonic plasma as well as X-rays are blasted away from the sunspot into space. Well this event occured when the sunspot was facing directly towards Earth, so the earth found itself in the path of a 2 million mile per hour blast of solar plasma.
While this sounds a bit ominous, this really doesn't have any affect to life on Earth. Our magnetosphere provides a cushion that prevents any sort of shock from hitting the atmosphere. However, the poles attract the photons toward the Earth's core. This attraction passes through layers of oxygen and nitrogen, exciting them, which causes the magnificent colors common to the Northern Lights (which also have their southern counterpart: the Aurora Australis).
Normally, such CME's occur all the time and impact our atmosphere frequently. However, the ionizing effects are usually isolated to regions around the magnetic poles: Quebec, Ontario, Minnesota, Scandinavia, Alaska and Russia. >P? The massive power of this explosion on the sun unleashed what's called an "X18" class flare on their scale of power. X is the highest. While this isn't the most powerful (it was the third most powerful) it was the most powerful to be directly earth-directed. An X20's in 1989 caused a massive power outage in Quebec, and a later one caused some satellites to fail. The final damage of this CME has not yet been fully realized. (It was still impacting as I type this).