'Solar Tsunami' Hits Earth Today

Wave of plasma expected to produce spectacular light show
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2010 3:24 AM CDT
Updated Aug 3, 2010 6:00 AM CDT
In this x-ray photo provided by NASA, the sun is shown early Sunday morning. The dark arc near the top right edge of the image is a filament of plasma blasting off the surface.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – Two massive explosions on the sun have sent a wave of supercharged gas racing toward Earth, but people should expect an amazing light show instead of fiery doom, NASA says. The "solar tsunami" probably won't be strong enough to knock out telecommunications equipment, but the plasma is likely to trigger spectacular displays of the northern and southern lights, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

"What wonderful fireworks the sun has been producing,” a solar expert tells the Telegraph. “This was a very rare event—not one, but two almost simultaneous eruptions from different locations on the sun were launched toward the Earth." The eruptions occur when immense magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere lose their stability and can't be contained by the sun's huge gravitational pull. "Just like a coiled spring suddenly being released, they erupt into space," the expert added.

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