The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7, 2011 from sunspot complex 1226-1227. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observed the flare's peak at 1:41a.m. ET (0641 UT). SDO recorded these images (above) in extreme ultraviolet light that show a very large eruption of cool gas. It is somewhat unique because at many places in the eruption there seems to be even cooler material -- at temperatures less than 80,000 K.
When viewed in Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's (SOHO) coronagraphs (right), the event shows bright plasma and high-energy particles roaring from the Sun. This not-squarely Earth-directed CME is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models.
The CME should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the CME arrives.
What is a solar flare? What is a CME? For answers to these and other space weather questions, please visit the Spaceweather Frequently Asked Questions page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html
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