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Solar Flare Rocks The Sun, Earth Probably Avoided Serious Problems (VIDEO)


First Posted: 08/09/11 06:52 PM ET Updated: 10/09/11 06:12 AM ET

A solar flare "rocked the sun" Tuesday morning. The solar flare, which began at 3:48 a.m. EDT, was the largest in four years, writes Space.com.

According to the video report below, solar flare activity is currently on the upswing as the Sun approaches the peak of its 11 year activity cycle, expected in 2013.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist Joe Kunches said, "We lucked out because the site of the eruption at the sun was not facing the Earth, so we will probably feel no ill effects."

Any particles headed our way are expected to reach Earth in a few days. SpaceWeather.com suggests that "we cannot rule out a glancing blow from the flank of the CME (coronal mass ejection from the solar flare) on or about August 11th."

A solar storm is a “flurry of charged particles that erupts from the Sun,” according to National Geographic. These particles have the ability to create “extra electrical currents” in Earth's magnetosphere (controlled by our magnetic field).

Power grids around the world are “particularly vulnerable” to the extra electrical currents created by solar storms, but Earth's magnetic field offers some protection. Satellites, on the other hand, are unprotected and forced to “weather the storm,” according to the video.

While a storm does have the potential to cause disruption to satellites and also to electrical equipment on the ground, Allie Spillyards explains in the video that the average person won't be affected. But, she warns, the accuracy of consumer GPS units can be compromised if storms affect the satellites that control them.

Forbes reports that a solar storm is not just bad news, as it can help to broaden the visibility of the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

According to TechEye, solar storms have caused significant disruptions in the past. In 1989, six million residents of Quebec, Canada were left without power for several hours because of a solar storm's impact on their province's power grid.

Telegraph systems were severely affected in 1859 in the worst solar storm in history. If the same size storm happened today, Space.com claims the damage bill could reach two trillion dollars.

The Huffington Post reported earlier this year on a large solar flare, with pictures and video available here.

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Filed by James Gerken  |  Report Corrections