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Topic: NASA’s Space Radiation Program

NASA’s Curiosity and the Solar Storm

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On November 26th, Curiosity blasted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas 5 rocket. Riding a plume of fire through the blue Florida sky, the car-sized rover began a nine month journey to search for signs of life Mars.

Meanwhile, 93 million miles away, a second lesser-noticed Mars launch was underway. Around the time that Curiosity’s rocket was breaking the bonds of Earth, a filament of magnetism erupted from the sun, hurling a billion-ton cloud of plasma (a “CME”) toward the Red Planet.

There was no danger of a collision—Mars rover vs. solar storm.  Racing forward at 2 million mph, the plasma cloud outpaced Curiosity’s rocket by a wide margin.

The two Mars launches of Nov. 26th, 2011. On the left, a solar explosion hurls a CME toward the Red Planet (Credit: SOHO). On the right, the Mars Science Lab or "Curiosity" lifts off from Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Howard Eskildsen of Titusville, FL)

The two Mars launches of Nov. 26th, 2011. On the left, a solar explosion hurls a CME toward the Red Planet (Credit: SOHO). On the right, the Mars Science Lab or "Curiosity" lifts off from Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Howard Eskildsen of Titusville, FL)

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