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Stormy Star



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High-Energy Blizzard
Image by SOHO, ESA and NASA

Solar scientists remember the event as the Bastille Day storm: The first major storm of the most recent solar max. On July 14, 2000, a powerful flare exploded, followed by a barrage of high-energy protons, here seen as "snow" bombarding the electronic detectors on one of SOHO's artificial-eclipse cameras. Only a small percentage of flares generate these high-energy protons, which reach Earth in 15 minutes to an hour. Earth's magnetosphere, the shield created by our magnetic field, protects us; particles that do get through have little chance of reaching ground. But these particles can damage satellites, and could deliver an elevated dose of radiation to a spacewalking astronaut. For astronauts working outside the magnetosphere, the exposure could be lethal.



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