At 06:41 UTC today the Sun unleashed an M2-class solar flare from arround the sunspot complex 1226-1227. Substantial Coronal Mass Ejection was observed and was visually spectacular. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface.
SDO recorded these images in extreme ultraviolet light and they show a very large explosion 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 80,000K.
When viewed in SOHO's coronagraphs, the event shows bright plasma and high-energy particles roaring from the Sun. This Earth-directed CME is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. Due to its angle, however, effects on Earth should be fairly small.
A video with commentary from solar physicist C. Alex Young of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows material splashing back to the stellar surface. "I've never seen material released this way before," he says in the video. "It looks like someone kicked a clod of dirt in the air--an amazing, amazing event."
Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) are still monitoring the CME as it billows away from the sun. Watch the cloud expand. The speckles are caused by energetic charged particles hitting the camera's CCD array. This is what we mean by a "radiation storm"; the particles were accelerated by the explosion and are now peppering Earth-orbiting satellites and spacecraft like SOHO.
Although the blast was not squarely Earth-directed, it will affect our planet. 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.
A coronal mass ejection (CME) propelled into space by the magnificent flare of June 7th has either missed Earth or its impact was too weak to notice.
Featured image: SDO AIA 301