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The ESA and NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured these
images of the sun spitting out a coronal mass ejection (CME) on March
15, 2013, from 3:24 to 4:00 a.m. EDT. This type of image is known as a
coronagraph, since a disk is placed over the sun to better see the
dimmer atmosphere around it, called the corona. Credit: ESA&NASA/SOHO.› View larger
On March 15, 2013, at 2:54 a.m. EDT, the sun erupted with an
Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME), a solar phenomenon that can
send billions of tons of solar particles into space and can reach Earth
one to three days later and affect electronic systems in satellites and
on the ground. Experimental NASA research models, based on observations
from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and ESA/NASA’s
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, show that the CME left the sun at
speeds of around 900 miles per second, which is a fairly fast speed for
CMEs. Historically, CMEs at this speed have caused mild to moderate
effects at Earth.
The NASA research models also show that the CME may pass by the Spitzer
and Messenger spacecraft. NASA has notified their mission operators.
There is, however, only minor particle radiation associated with this
event, which is what would normally concern operators of interplanetary
spacecraft since the particles can trip on board computer electronics.
Not to be confused with a solar flare, a CME is a solar phenomenon that
can send solar particles into space and reach Earth one to three days
later. Earth-directed CMEs can cause a space weather phenomenon called a
geomagnetic storm, which occurs when they connect with the outside of
the Earth's magnetic envelope, the magnetosphere, for an extended period
of time. In the past, geomagnetic storms caused by CMEs such as this
one have usually been of mild to medium strength.
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (http://swpc.noaa.gov) is the
United States Government official source for space weather forecasts,
alerts, watches and warnings.