July 20 - The Sun has hurled another giant burst of radiation into space, producing a spectacular solar flare that leapt from its surface on Thursday (July 19). The flare was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection, although scientists say the cloud of charged particles is not heading towards Earth. Kilmeny Duchardt reports.
Thursday's flare was the latest in a series of solar eruptions captured by NASA's orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. Classified as a moderate M class flare it lasted for about 45 minutes, ejecting billions of charged particles into space in a coronal mass ejection. M class flares are not as powerful as the X class, but can still emit enough electro-magnetic radiation to disrupt radio and satellite communications on Earth. This time however, scientists say the charged particles were directed away from Earth and don't pose a threat. The observatory's five year mission began in February of 2010. The SDO is equipped with four telescopes that can observe and transmit highly detailed images of the sun in a variety of wavelengths. The sun's 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which means flares are likely to increase before the cycle reaches its peak in 2013. NASA says its observatory will be providing an uninterrupted view of all solar activity until the SDO mission ends in three years. Kilmeny Duchardt, Reuters.