Solar Tsunami: Space Storm Headed Toward Earth
Coronal Mass Ejection: 'Solar Tsunami' Caused by Sunspot
A very rare solar storm is headed toward Earth. The coronal mass ejection, which astronomers are calling a solar tsunami, has hit our magnetosphere on August 4. On August 1, astronomers saw the wave form out of an Earth-sized sunspot, and only now is it reaching us after traveling for 93 million miles. (Spaceweather.com video of solar tsunami forming)
The wave of charged gas will excite the Aurora Borealis and Australis (Northern and Southern Lights), which will be visible further from the poles than they normally are.
While this blast of foul space weather may affect satellites that control things like mobile phone communication, the planet itself is in no danger. The last major eruption was in 2001.
In theory, a large enough solar storm could damage the thousands of satellites currently in orbit.
Aurorae normally are visible only at high latitudes. However, during a geomagnetic storm aurorae can light up the sky at lower latitudes. Sky watchers in the northern U.S. and other countries should look toward the north on the evening of August 3rd/4th for rippling "curtains" of green and red light.
Solar tsunamis pose no direct threat to Earth. Nevertheless, they are important to study. "We can use them to diagnose conditions on the sun," notes Gurman. "By watching how the waves propagate and bounce off things, we can gather information about the sun's lower atmosphere available in no other way."