High-Speed Coronal Mass Ejection Heading Towards Earth

First Posted: Mar 16, 2013 01:34 PM EDT

A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) has blasted off the surface of the Sun, heading straight towards Earth at a staggering 900 miles per second, NASA announced.

In such bursts of solar winds and magnetic fields, billions of tons of radioactive solar particles get released into space. This time, a significant amount of it is headed directly towards Earth.

At the speed which those particles are moving, they can reach Earth in a day or so, scientists say. And “speed” is an important factor when it comes to the impact of these phenomena. CME’s moving at this high rate of speed usually create mild to moderate effects on the Earth.

It’s worth clarifying the difference between CME and Solar Flare. Solar Flares happen quite a bit more frequently than CME’s, and occasionally, a CME happens directly after a Solar Flare, but not always, and scientists have yet to develop the relationship between Solar Flares and CME’s.

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) observed and recorded the event, and experimental research models have shown that the CME left the surface of the Sun at speeds of around 900 miles per second.

The same experimental models are revealing that the particle flow will directly affect two of NASA’s space instruments, the Spitzer and Messenger spacecraft. NASA has warned the mission scientists from these two spacecraft, and the mission commanders will take appropriate steps to keep particle radiation from tripping on-board instruments.

MESSENGER’s mission is to conduct an in-depth study of the sun’s closest neighbor, Mercury, the least explored of the terrestrial planets that also include Venus, Earth and Mars. After its launch on Aug. 2, 2004, MESSENGER’s voyage and mission directive included three flybys of Mercury in 2008 and 2009 and a year-long orbit of the planet starting in March 2011, with additional mission directives being assigned as need be.

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