According to an August 20 news release from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, at 4:24 am EDT the same day, an Earth-bound coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted from the Sun. This solar phenomenon can fire billions of tons of particles into space, which can reach the Earth within one to three days. NASA scientists stress that the ejected particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to cause harm to humans, but the particles can disrupt electronic systems in space- and ground-based equipment.
According to experimental research models used by NASA, following the analysis of observations from NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, scientists discovered that the CME ejected from the sun at approximately 570 miles per second – a fairly typical speed for CMEs.
CMEs bound for Earth can produce a space weather phenomenon called a geomagnetic storm. This type of storm occurs when CMEs channel energy into Earth’s magnetosphere, for an extended period of time. CMEs peel back the outermost layers of Earth’s magnetic fields, which changes their entire shape. In previous incidences of similarly powerful CME-created geomagnetic storms, the effects have typically been mild.
The United States government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches, and warnings is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
According to the agency’s official web page describing the organization, “The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is part of the National Weather Service and is one of the nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction. It is the nation’s official source of space weather alerts, watches and warnings. SWPC provides real-time monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events which impact satellites, power grids, communications, navigation, and many other technological systems. SWPC also explores and evaluates new models and products and transitions them into operations. SWPC is also the primary warning center for the International Space Environment Service and works with many national and international partners with whom data, products, and services are shared.”