Sun shoots out monster blast … but Earth is safe

NASA / SDO

A massive solar eruption just behind the sun’s eastern limb was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

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By John Roach

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image today of a massive solar eruption. The source was an active region located just behind the sun’s eastern limb, and the coronal mass ejection was not directed at Earth, according to SpaceWeather.com.

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However, the news service notes that “the active region responsible for this blast will emerge over the eastern limb during the next 24 to 48 hours, setting the stage for possible geoeffective solar activity.”

The eruption follows close on the heels of another strong solar flare unleashed on Valentine’s Day, one that triggered a geomagnetic storm a few days later that disrupted radio communications in China and threatened satellites and power grids.

Scientists expect these events to be more common in the coming years as the sun ramps up activity as part of its 11-year cycle. Solar maximum is predicted for around 2013.

More about solar outbursts:

* Experts warn U.S. must take space storms seriously * Solar shield to protect power grids from storms * Solar cycle sparks doomsday buzz

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John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the “like” button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com’s science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).

URL: http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/24/6124898-sun-shoots-out-monster-blast-but-earth-is-safe?chromedomain=cosmiclog

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