Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are massive plasma clouds carrying photons that are ejected from the Sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit it and therefore, cause disturbances there of various kinds. CME occurs more frequently during the solar cycle peak, which is in the middle of the cycle.
The Sun released a mighty powerful X1-class solar flare on February 11 which could’ve caused devastating effects on Earth if it was hurled towards the planet, but it wasn’t. That does not mean we’re safe. Mere hours after the X1-class flare was released, the Sun spewed out a filament of magnetism in its Northern hemisphere which hurled a CME into space.
The spaceweather.com report stated, “Yesterday’s X1-class solar flare attracted all the attention, but it did not produce a CME. Another explosion did. Five hours before the X-flare, a filament of magnetism erupted from the sun’s northern hemisphere and hurled a CME into space.”
Although the CME will mostly pass safely by, but, a small part of it could still impact the planet on February 14 near the Artic which could result in stunning auroras to be witnessed by astronomers and skywatchers. “Most of the CME will pass north of Earth, but not all. A glancing blow is likely on Feb. 14th. Arctic sky watchers could get a light show for Valentine’s Day”, the report further stated.
How NASA monitors solar activity
Among many satellites and telescopes observing the Sun currently, one is the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The SDO carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities.
They include Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet irradiance and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.