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Coronal Mass Ejection - Disrupter of Communications
Videos for Engineers

You have heard of, read of, and/or experienced how major sun eruptions impact Earthly electronic communications, but have you ever seen a video of the event's source? Most coronal mass ejections (CME) are minor and do not project in the Earth's direction, but the ones that are of significance have the potential to be catastrophic. Ejections that do intercept the Earth's position are called interplanetary CMEs (ICME).

The video below shows a rather extreme example that was imaged by a white light coronagraph back in 2003, long before the sun entered is current quite phase. Billions of tons of mass are ejected in the form of loose electrons, protons, and some ionized elements (up through iron). An entraining magnetic field accompanies the ejection. When the particles and associated fields interact with the Earth's magnetic field and ionosphere, sparks can fly - literally.

Visually, an ICME can manifest itself as amazing borealis effects. Electronically, the particles and fields can wreak havoc on orbiting communications satellites, interrupt (or even enhance) terrestrial communications, and in severe cases can cause power distribution systems to fail due to induced currents in transmission lines. Much work has been done to try to mitigate the vulnerability of all these systems, but really large ICMEs can still destroy equipment. They are natural EMPs (electromagnetic pulse) of the kind that occur during a manmade nuclear detonation - awesome!


White light coronagraph video of a coronal mass ejection (CME) event



Animation of an interplanetary coronal mass ejection (ICME) that intercepts the Earth