CMES AND FLARES
Living with a Star: Sun-Earth Connections
Image Credit: SOHO
When a coronal mass ejection hurls itself through space there are significant
consequences once the magnetized plasma impacts the Earth.
CME's and solar flares can disrupt satellite operations in orbit,
communications with satellites and communications on the ground, as
well as power grid stations on the ground. Harmful radiation from
the solar storm does not penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, but it
can be harmful to astronauts on the International Space Station
or in the Space Shuttle, especially if they are involved in a space
walk outside the vehicle at the time. In addition to these distructive
effects, solar storms also produce aurora which light up the night sky
with beautiful colors.
With improved models of the Sun's magnetic field scientists can begin
to understand what causes these explosive events to occur on the Sun,
allowing them to more accurately predict when the effects of a solar
storm might be headed our way. With better space weather predictions
we can take precautions to limit or avoid the distructive effects
described above. In this sense, solar physicists are working to become
forecasters of the space weather which affects us all.