The Big CME that Missed Earth
July of 2012 witnessed the eruption of a very large and fast solar coronal mass ejection (CME) (see NASA STEREO Observes One of the Fastest CMEs On Record and Carrington-class CME Narrowly Misses Earth ). While not directed at Earth, it was sufficiently large that it could have seriously disrupted the global electrical infrastructure. The event did impact STEREO-A of NASA's heliophysics fleet which provided a host of measurements (see Sentinels of the Heliosphere).
One of the conditions which contributed to the high speed of this event is that two smaller CMEs were launched a little earlier, and these events cleared out much of the solar wind material, leaving little to slow the outflow of the July 23 event (UTC).
In the visualizations below, generated from the Enlil space weather model, green represents particle density, usually protons and other ions. In green, we see the Parker spiral moving out from the sun generated by the sun's current sheet (Wikipedia). Red represents particles at high temperatures and shows the CME is hotter than the usual solar wind flow. Large changes in density are represented in blue. These three colors sometimes combine to tell us more about the characteristics of the event (noted in the 3-color Venn diagram below).
However, if this CME had struck Earth's magnetosphere, which has a much stronger magnetic field, the changing magnetic field would induce much larger voltages in systems with long electrical conductors, such as power lines that run over long distances. These significantly higher voltages can damage power transformers.
Enlil model run of the July 23, 2012 CME and events leading up to it. This view includes a 'top-down' view in the plane of Earth's orbit, as well as a slice perpendicular to the orbit which passes through Earth. We see the previous CME pass Earth, but not the July 23 event.
This video is also available on our YouTube channel.
Enlil model run of the July 23, 2012 CME and events leading up to it. This movie provides a better view of the inner solar system for the CME event. The density color table has been altered accordingly. This view includes a 'top-down' view in the plane of Earth's orbit, as well as a slice perpendicular to the orbit which passes through Earth. We see the previous CME pass Earth, but not the July 23 event.
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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio, the Space Weather Research Center (SWRC), the Community-Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC), Enlil and Dusan Odstrcil (GMU), Leila Mays (CUA) and Janet Luhmann (UCB) and NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.
- Tom Bridgman (Global Science and Technology, Inc.) [Lead]
MissionsThis visualization is related to the following missions:
Datasets used in this visualization
Enlil Heliospheric Model (Enlil Heliospheric Model)ID: 685Model Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC)
MHD solar wind simulationSee all pages that use this dataset
DE421 (JPL DE421)ID: 752Ephemeris NASA/JPL
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.