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Solar flare slams into Earth may hit communication, power

Washington, Sept 28 (): A massive solar flare that erupted on the Sun over the weekend has hit the Earth’s magnetic field on Monday, following the impact of a coronal mass ejection (CME).

Earlier the particles reached at Earth at 8:37 a.m. EDT (1237 GMT) Monday, kicking off moderate geomagnetic storms at lower latitudes and storms that are more serious closer to the Earth’s poles, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These storms can disrupt GPS signals, radio communications and power grids, but no such effects have yet been reported, NOAA officials said.

It started when an X1.9-category flare erupted from the Sunspot 1302 – a 60,000-mile-long region that NASA calls ‘behemoth’ – at 5:40 am EDT on September 24.

Simulations indicate that solar wind plasma penetrated close to geosynchronous orbit at 9 a.m. on Monday. Geosynchronous satellites could therefore be directly exposed to solar wind plasma and magnetic fields. Clear locations, as far south as the northern United States were witness to aurora due to the storm. Sky watchers at the highest latitudes should remain alert for northern lights as Earth’s magnetic field continues to reverberate from the CME impact.

Luckily, this CME delivered a glancing blow. If it had hit Earth directly, the geomagnetic storms and, possibly, the damage could have been more serious. But we’re not out of the woods yet, SWPC officials said.

The storm erupted from a region known as sunspot 1302. Sunspots are temporary dark patches on the solar surface caused by intense magnetic activity. The area around sunspot 1302 may be brewing up more trouble.

“Region 1302 remains capable of producing more activity and will be in a favorable position for that activity to have impacts on Earth for the next 3-5 days,” SWPC officials said.

For now, however, the biggest effect of the geomagnetic storms may be the auroras, so sky watchers in favorable locations should look up when they get the chance.

People in the mid- to high-latitudes should be alert for auroras after nightfall. The best hours to spot the northern and southern lights tend to be around local midnight.