NASA satellite captures massive eruption from the surface of the Sun

I don't know how you celebrated May Day yesterday, but the Sun had some pretty spectacular plans of its own.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured footage of an incredible coronal mass ejection — an immense eruption from the surface of the Sun — that unfolded over a period of about two and a half hours, in what they called "a gigantic rolling wave."

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A coronal mass ejection (CME) happens when a solar flare bursts out with such energy that the 'loop' of material literally snaps, flinging billions of tons of solar material out, away from the Sun, at over 1.5 million km/h. When these eruptions reach Earth, they cascade over the magnetic field, and can spark geomagnetic storms and intense auroras at the poles. With particularly intense CMEs, the resulting storms can cause communication problems and power blackouts, and it can affect the satellites and International Space Station in orbit.

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This particular CME erupted from just around the 'edge' of the Sun from us, so it won't have any effect on Earth. It does illustrate how the Sun is 'waking up', though, as it approaches the peak of its 11-year solar cycle this year.

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