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When a flare erupts, it throws out large clouds of ionized, or electrically charged, gas. A small fraction of the cloud is very energetic and can reach the Earth within a few minutes to hours of the flare being observed. These energetic particles pose a hazard to both astronauts and spacecraft.
Coronal mass ejections, which are often associated with flares, take several days to reach the Earth. Fast, powerful ejections give rise to geomagnetic storms, which can disrupt radio transmissions and induce large currents in power transmission lines and oil pipelines. They have resulted in large-scale failures of the North American power grid and greatly increased pipeline erosion. SXI also will monitor coronal holes -- persistent sources of high-speed solar wind. As the Sun rotates every 27 days, these sources sprayacross the Earth and cause recurring geomagnetic storms.
The Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory at the ATC has a long heritage of spaceborne solar instruments including the Soft X-ray Telescope on the Japanese Yohkoh satellite, the Michelson Doppler Imager on the ESA/NASA Solarand Heliospheric Observatory, and the solar telescope on NASA's Transition Region and Coronal Explorer. The laboratory also conducts basic research into understanding and predicting space weather and the behavior of our Sun including its impacts on Earth and climate.
The ATC is the research and development organization of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (LMSSC). LMSSC, a major operating unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation, designs, develops, tests, manufactures and operates avariety of advanced technology systems for military, civil and commercial customers. Chief products include a full-range of space launch systems, including heavy-lift capability, ground systems, remote sensing and communications satellites for commercial and government customers, advanced space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft, fleet ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 135,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2005 sales of