NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite has spotted a giant eruption off the surface of the Sun that will hit rover Curiosity on its way to Mars. The coronal mass ejection sent out an M1 class, or medium, solar flare from the north-east of the Sun that will also hit NASA's Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO B) spacecraft, the Spitzer space telescope and the rover, as well as possibly glancing off Venus and Mars, according to SpaceWeather.com. The NASA missions in the path of the flare will not experience any damage.
A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released. On the Sun's surface are huge magnetic loops called prominences. When they touch, they short circuit each other, setting off explosions. The amount of energy released is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time! A solar flare contains high energy photons and particles, and is released from the Sun in a few minutes.