Sun unleashes flare, storm and particles

June 7, 2011 at 6:04 PM
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GREENBELT, Md., June 7 (UPI) -- The United States' space agency says it observed the sun unleashing a solar flare, a small radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection Tuesday.

The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down, covering almost half the solar surface, a NASA release said.

NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory observed the flare's peak at 1:41 a.m. EDT, recording a large burst of gas, unusual in that many areas in the eruption seemed to contain cool material -- cool for the sun, that is, as less than 80,000 degrees Kelvin.

The coronal mass ejection sent bright plasma and high-energy particles roaring away from the sun at more than 800 miles per second.

Although not aimed directly at the Earth, the ejection should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of Wednesday or Thursday, NASA said, and may provide sky watchers with observable auroras.

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