Over the past 24 hours, the Sun has erupted with two coronal mass ejections (CMEs), sending billions of tons of solar particles into space. While these CMEs are not directed at Earth, they are heading towards Mercury and may affect the Messenger spacecraft, as well as the Sun-watching STEREO-A satellites. One CME may send a glancing blow of particles to Mars, possibly affecting spacecraft at the Red Planet.
This solar radiation can affect electronic systems on spacecraft, and the various missions have been put on alert. When warranted, NASA operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from the solar material.
The first CME began at 01:30 UTC on April 25 (9:30 p.m. EDT on April 24), and the second erupted at 09:24 UTC (5:24 a.m. EDT) on April 25. Both left the sun traveling at about 800 kilometers (500 miles per second).
See this animation from the STEREO-B spacecraft:
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