Solar Blob In Space May Create Northern Lights Show

A giant blob of solar plasma in space is heading straight for us. But don’t fret, it’s much more harmless than it sounds.

When the blob impacts Earth, all it will do is produce a brilliant light show up north, much like the Northern Lights.

The outburst of plasma, also known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME, shot out of the sun on January 13 and sparked a radio blackout, reports NBC News.

Since then, it has taken several days for the slow-moving blob to make its way through space toward Earth. Normally, a strong solar storm interacting with the magnetosphere can spark satellite outages and disrupt electric power grids. The CME is not expected to do that this time.

Norm Cohen, a senior forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, stated:

“We’re not going to be in for a big disturbance. The northern tier of the United States might be able to see aurorae.”

The most visible sign of the blob in space hitting Earth will be the northern lights. They are created when the electrically charged solar particles and the atoms in Earth’s upper atmosphere interact with each other.

The Alaska Dispatch notes that there has been some auroral activity in recent weeks, but the flare from the latest CME may improve the chances for stargazers to see them. Karen Fox of the Goddard Space Flight Center stated:

“This is a fairly typical speed for CMEs, though much slower than the fastest ones, which can be almost 10 times that speed.”

The blob in space is traveling about 275 miles per second toward Earth. The speed of the CME plays a role in how it impacts Earth. Ones that move slower are less likely to cause magnetic interference and geomagnetic storms. They are still able to affect the northern lights, however.