Published February 19, 2014
It’s freezing in North America -- but things are heating up on the sun.
A huge magnetic filament shot out of the sun Monday, sending shockwaves racing at 1.7 million miles per hour and a brief roar of static through shortwave radios across the planet. And with a geomagnetic storm causing Northern Lights to dance across the Canadian border and into North America, the sun is clearly acting up.
According to a report on Spaceweather.com, Monday’s massive blast shot off the sun and into space, away from our planet, so it didn’t have the same effect on radio signals, power grids and communication satellites that an Earth-facing eruption would have.
But it did cause a Type II radio burst, the site noted.
“The explosion sent shock waves rippling through the sun's atmosphere,” the site noted. “Those shock waves, in turn, triggered plasma instabilities in the solar corona that emit strong radio emissions. The static-y 'roar' of the explosion was picked up by solar observatories and ham radio stations across the dayside of our planet.”
A "filament" is a feature of a magnetic loop on the sun: relatively cool, dense gas suspended above the sun's surface. Tony Philips, the scientist behind the Spaceweather.com site, told FoxNews.com the blast was at least 20 times taller than the Earth. The force from the blast rocketed from the sun at around 1.7 million mph -- typical for this type of eruption.
Late Tuesday night, NASA issued a warning about a geomagnetic storm, which coupled with a second solar eruption caused auroras here on Earth, and trouble for spacecraft and satellites.
“Magnetic fields in the interplanetary medium have tipped south, opening a crack in Earth's defenses against the solar wind. High-latitude sky-watchers should be alert for auroras,” Spaceweather.com noted late Wednesday.
Sure enough, auroras were seen across the Northern Hemisphere.
"The auroras were so bright, I could actually see a snowy owl on power pole back lit by the green glow," Douglas Kiesling wrote from Sauk Rapids, Minn. "The owl itself was illuminated by bright moonlight."