Southern California environment news and trends

Photo of the Day: Watch the vivid yellow of the sun's coronal mass ejection

NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Coronal mass ejections have no potential to hurt people, but they can affect communications systems and satellites.

NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Gases that are heated and electronically supercharged brighten the surface of the sun.

NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Solar material ends up flowing off into space. That's the bright spot.


Sometimes, journalists spend all day monitoring regulatory hearings. So it has been with the advanced clean cars provram at the Air Resources Board (here in LA, happening at the Metropolitan Water District offices). It's risky business, alright. You run the risk of going cross eyed listening to public comment, techncial talk, and discussion among board members. Someday I'm going to come up with a bingo board for regulatory hearings, and it will include phrases like "kicking the can down the road," "broad cross-section of stakeholders," "landmark," and "bravo." At some point this afternoon, one guy in favor of what the Air Resources Board is doing spoke just after several specialty and minority Chambers of Commerce that don't, and he remarked on it. Chair Mary Nichols must have been punchy, because she advised the guy to form a chamber of commerce of his own.

Anyway, that's why we've got a photo of the day from NASA's Earth Observatory. Because my brain is mush. Click through this slideshow and you can see, in the rop right quadrant of the sun, a solar event called a coronal mass ejection, or a CME. Superheated gas becomes incredibly supercharged, too; that sends solar material off the ball of gas, in a sort of hot spot.

Mike Carlowicz with NASA (with whom, incidentally, I went to college, and after whom I was an editor at Georgetown's newspaper of record since 1920) writes about how the sun's activity has increased in recent days, with a CME on January 23:

Solar flares and CMEs are not a danger to humans on Earth's surface, as the planet's magnetic field (magnetosphere) and atmosphere deflect and absorb the solar energy and particles. The sun storms can pose some risks to astronauts, and they can upset the electronics and transmissions on science, military, and communications satellites. Closer to Earth's surface, solar activity can cause disruptions of radio signals (particularly HF), provide a small dose of radiation to passengers on high-latitude flights, and provoke auroras (northern and southern lights).

The storm is impressive by recent standards, but nowhere near the maximum intensities often generated at the height of the solar cycle. “I would expect that we will see more storms like this one or even bigger as we get closer to solar maximum,” said Michael Hesse, chief of heliophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

That is all. NASA's imagery is cool. More tomorrow. When my brain will be able to do more than watch this:

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