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
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 -
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!