Biggest Solar Storm of the Year

By: RTV/Handout/CBS
By: RTV/Handout/CBS
Telescopes mounted on NASA

Sun spots and flares rise from surface of sun, SOHO ultraviolet photo (AP)

Telescopes mounted on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded two flares from the Sun on Sunday (May 12), one of which was the largest of the year.

The more powerful flare, categorized as an X1.7 and accompanied by the CME, leapt off the upper-left side of the Sun, while a second eruption was taking place on the opposite side.

A coronal mass ejection is a solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space.

If directed towards Earth, that energy can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground. NASA scientists say Sunday's CME left the Sun at approximately 745 miles per second but was headed toward Mercury and poses no threat to systems on Earth.

The SDO was launched by NASA on February 11, 2010. It is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the Sun.

Equipped with a group of four, sophisticated telescopes called the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), the SDO can observe and transmit highly detailed images of the Sun in different wavelengths. The images colored in teal are observations made in the 131 Angstrom wavelength, regarded as ideal for visualizing material at the very hot temperatures of a solar flare.

The latest solar activity was also captured by the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a cooperative effort between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. SOHO was designed to study the internal structure of the Sun, its extensive outer atmosphere and the origin of the solar wind, the stream of highly ionized gas that blows continuously outward through the Solar System.

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