With instruments in space and on earth, NJIT solar experts monitor the massive solar storm

January 09, 2014

The first powerful "X-class" solar flare of 2014, in association with another solar phenomenon, a giant cloud of solar particles known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), erupted from the sun on Tuesday, sending radiation and particles speeding toward Earth and disrupting operations on the ground.

NASA reported on Wednesday that Orbital Sciences Corp., a commercial spaceflight company on a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station, had called off its rocket launch that day from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia because of the unusually high levels of radiation.

"This was a huge event, with the CME now classified as an R-type for its rarity, with an estimated speed much higher than we have recently seen because of the massive release of energy," commented Andrew Gerrard, an NJIT professor of physics and deputy director of the university's Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research. "Eruptions of this magnitude can cause circulation changes in the upper atmosphere, communications disruptions in space and on the ground, and other potential electrical anomalies. We can lose track of space craft, whose orbits can be disrupted by these in these events. It's like driving through molasses."

NJIT is continuing to measure the solar explosion's impact from space with its instruments on the Van Allen Probes, NASA space craft that travel through the inner magnetosphere, and on the ground through instruments like those in the NATION Fabry-Perot systems in North America, which measure thermospheric winds and temperatures, and in systems across the Antarctic plateau that measure geomagnetic variability.

"This is a beautiful opportunity to look at how this material from the sun is injected into the radiation belts, inner magnetosphere, and upper atmosphere," Gerrard said. "We may not see anything like this for another decade."

NJIT's Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research also operates the university's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) in California, which is home to the world's most powerful ground-based telescope dedicated to solar research. NJIT professors at BBSO in Big Bear have obtained new and remarkably detailed photos of the Sun with the New Solar Telescope (NST).

The flare, a giant burst of radiation designated as X-class for the most intense flares, is centered over a giant sunspot AR1944 located at the center of the sun. By Wednesday, the solar radiation storm had intensified to an S3 or strong event, while the coronal mass ejection was forecast to set off G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm activity through January 9 and 10, NASA said.

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections regularly send bursts of charged particles and high energy radiation in Earth's direction at nearly the speed of light. Upon reaching our atmosphere within minutes, solar radiation can destroy the electronic systems in satellites used in telecommunications, weather forecasting and GPS systems, among other services, as well as devices on the ground, such as transformers.

In 1989, for example, a solar storm brought down the Hydro-Quebec grid within minutes, blacking out the entire province as well as parts of the Northern United States for several hours.
-end-
For further information about the solar event and its terrestrial impacts, please contact Andrew Gerrard at 732-357-5230 or gerrard@njit.edu.

NJIT, New Jersey's science and technology university, enrolls 10,000 students pursuing bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 120 programs. The university consists of six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, College of Architecture and Design, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, College of Computing Sciences and Albert Dorman Honors College. U.S. News & World Report's 2011 Annual Guide to America's Best Colleges ranked NJIT in the top tier of national research universities. NJIT is internationally recognized for being at the edge in knowledge in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and e-learning. Many courses and certificate programs, as well as graduate degrees, are available online through the Division of Continuing Professional Education.

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Related Radiation Articles from Brightsurf:

Sheer protection from electromagnetic radiation
A printable ink that is both conductive and transparent can also block radio waves.

What membrane can do in dealing with radiation
USTC recently found that polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can release acidic substance under γ radiation, whose amount is proportional to the radiation intensity.

First measurements of radiation levels on the moon
In the current issue (25 September) of the prestigious journal Science Advances, Chinese and German scientists report for the first time on time-resolved measurements of the radiation on the moon.

New biomaterial could shield against harmful radiation
Northwestern University researchers have synthesized a new form of melanin enriched with selenium.

A new way to monitor cancer radiation therapy doses
More than half of all cancer patients undergo radiation therapy and the dose is critical.

Nimotuzumab-cisplatin-radiation versus cisplatin-radiation in HPV negative oropharyngeal cancer
Oncotarget Volume 11, Issue 4: In this study, locally advanced head and neck cancer patients undergoing definitive chemoradiation were randomly allocated to weekly cisplatin - radiation {CRT arm} or nimotuzumab -weekly cisplatin -radiation {NCRT arm}.

Breaking up amino acids with radiation
A new experimental and theoretical study published in EPJ D has shown how the ions formed when electrons collide with one amino acid, glutamine, differ according to the energy of the colliding electrons.

Radiation breaks connections in the brain
One of the potentially life-altering side effects that patients experience after cranial radiotherapy for brain cancer is cognitive impairment.

Fragmenting ions and radiation sensitizers
The anti-cancer drug 5-fluorouracil (5FU) acts as a radiosensitizer: it is rapidly taken up into the DNA of cancer cells, making the cells more sensitive to radiotherapy.

'Seeing the light' behind radiation therapy
Delivering just the right dose of radiation for cancer patients is a delicate balance in their treatment regime.

Read More: Radiation News and Radiation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.