This Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) corongraph video shows the August 7 solar event generating a coronal mass ejection (CME). The major CME appearing in the video on the left will not strike Earth but the smaller portion appearing on the right will skim Earth's magnetic field (magnetosphere) and result in high latitude aurora on August 9 and 10. Credit: NASA/SOHO
The solar eruption of August 7 might affect Earth after all. Newly-arriving data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) show a CME heading our way with a significant Earth-directed component. The flare could boost the northern lights displays this week for skywatchers at northern latitudes.
This latest flare has been given M-class status, the second most-intense category (after X-class). M-class flares are capable of causing radio interference around the Earth's poles.
Solor flares, or coronal mass ejections, are eruptions of plasma and ionized atoms into space. As these atoms reach Earth, solar particles stream down the planet's magnetic field lines toward the poles. In the process, the charged particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, creating impressive aurora light shows in the process.
Intense solar storms are capable of causing disturbances to space-based assets such as satellites, as well as to electronic infrastructure on Earth.