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Satellite to detect solar flares is launched

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Florida (CNN) -- An environmental satellite that will detect harmful solar flares and gather other weather data was launched early Monday, carrying on it a new solar X-ray imager.

The satellite -- launched on board an Atlas rocket at 3:23 a.m. EDT -- is the fifth advanced weather satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The GOES-M satellite is much more than our latest weather sentinel in the heavens," said Scott Gudes, acting administrator of NOAA. "It will give our space weather forecasters the tools to better detect the sun's solar storms and predict how these solar flares might impact power grids and electronic systems on Earth."

The solar X-ray imager will record an image of the sun's atmosphere each minute. Weather experts and U.S. Air Force officials will use that data to predict the severity of solar disturbances, which could cause surges in power grids, destroy satellite electronics or disrupt some kinds of radio communications.

The GOES satellite's weather instruments will also send back valuable information, which -- when combined with Doppler radars on the ground -- will help weather forecasters better predict and track hurricanes, thunderstorms and winter storms.







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