Huge Solar Flare Shoots From Sun

A flare from the sun blew into space, then fell back to the surface, covering roughly half the size of the sun. Now that solar energy is on its way to Earth.

By Conan Nolan and Julie Brayton
|  Thursday, Jun 9, 2011  |  Updated 12:27 PM PDT
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A mushroom of cooled plasma shot out from the surface of the sun yesterday, sending perhaps the largest amount of solar material into space ever seen.

Conan Nolan and Tom Bravo

A mushroom of cooled plasma shot out from the surface of the sun yesterday, sending perhaps the largest amount of solar material into space ever seen.

A mushroom of cooled plasma shot out from the surface of the sun Tuesday, sending perhaps the largest amount of solar material into space ever seen, scientists reported in National Geographic.

The solar storm hit its peak about 11:40 p.m. PDT, but the actual flare extended over a three-hour period.

Scientists were reportedly shocked by the size of the flare.

"I've never seen anything as big as this. This is by far and away the biggest one I've ever seen," said  Laura Danly, Ph.D of the Griffith Observatory.

The material shot up into space, expanded, and fell back down over roughly half the surface area of the sun, National Geographic reports.

"The flare was fairly local, but still a large sunspot group; but only a fraction of the sun's disk," said Danly. "But the coronal mass ejection spit up so much material that when it rained back down it covered almost half of the sun. It was just huge."

A simultaneous launch of particles into space is called a coronal mass ejection or CME.

A press release from NASA said solar energy released by the event could give the earth's magnetic field what they call a glancing blow Wednesday or Thursday.

It's not expected to cause a major impact here on Earth, but the National Weather Service Predicts a small effect on satellites and some power grids.

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