Origin and cause of Sun's 'perfect storm' revealed
Researchers have published a paper that uncovers the origin and cause of an extreme space weather event that occurred on July 22, 2012, at the sun and generated the fastest solar wind speed ever recorded directly by a solar wind instrument.
The formation of the rare, powerful storm showed striking, novel features that were detected by a UNH-built instrument on board NASA's twin-satellite Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission. An instrument led by the University of California, Berkeley also made key measurements.
The 2012 storm was so powerful that had it been aimed at Earth instead of at the STEREO A spacecraft, which was located 120 degrees off to the side of Earth, the consequences would have been dramatic: widespread aurora, satellite malfunctions, and potential for failures with ground-based electricity grids.
Research assistant professor Noe Lugaz of the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS), lead author is Ying D. Liu of the State Key Laboratory of Space Weather, National Space Science Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences, suggest it was the successive, one-two punch of solar eruptions known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that was the key to the event, which blasted away from the sun at 3,000 kilometers per second - a speed that would circle the Earth five times in one minute.
Detecting the successive eruptions would not have been possible prior to STEREO.
The paper has been published in journal Nature Communications.
(Posted on 19-03-2014)