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Curiosity rover powers down to wait out massive solar explosion

A massive explosion erupted on the far side of the Sun early in the morning on Tuesday, March 5th, and whereas it is headed in the opposite direction to do anything on or around Earth any harm, the same cannot be said of Mars (which is currently on the opposite side of the Sun from us).

As a result of this 'coronal mass ejection' (CME) being thrown out into space, NASA has placed the Mars Curiosity rover into a powered-down 'standby' mode, to wait out the storm as it passes the Red Planet.

[ Related: Curiosity rover on the road to recovery after computer glitch ]

NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded the CME, which took place at 7:05 a.m. on March 5th (the arrows in the image show the explosion radiating out into space).

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Putting Curiosity into standby mode is just a precaution, since the rover is hardened against the damaging effects of solar storms. However, given the robot's recent computer problems, the science team just wants to be extra careful while it is recovering.

Once the solar storm passes by Mars, the science team will bring Curiosity back online and resume operations to get its B-side computer up to speed to take over the mission.

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