While the U.S. celebrated Independence Day on July 4, the sun held its own, more powerful firework display.

The stellar fireworks came in the form of two solar storms, or coronal mass ejections (CMEs), that are partly directed at Earth and were observed by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) that orbits our star. CMEs can contain as much as a billion tons of plasma made up of charged particles and thus carry with them their own magnetic fields.

NASA has projected that the massive ejection of ionized gas called plasma will impact Earth by Friday (July 7). When the charged particles within CMEs strike the magnetic field of our planet, the magnetosphere, they can give rise to large disturbances called geomagnetic storms.  These storms can, in turn, disrupt power and communication infrastructure here on the surface of Earth in addition to affecting satellites, which could adversely influence services such as the global positioning system (GPS). Space Weather physicist Tamitha Skov shared footage of both CMEs recorded by the SOHO’s Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment (LASCO) on her Twitter feed.  Skov wrote: “Our #Sun celebrates #July4 with its own special fireworks! We have two partly Earth-directed #solarstorms (aka CMEs) on their way. The second storm will catch up to the first giving us a 1,2-punch. Model predictions show impact likely July 7. I’ll post NASA model runs next”

As promised, the space weather expert shared models of both CMEs, created by NASA’s Chris Stubenrauch, describing the outflows of stellar matter as a “double punch” of solar storms. 

The first tweet showed the initial CME, which NASA predicted is slower and will arrive before 8 am (EDT) on Friday and will head mostly to the northeast.