Solar flare erupts, creating spectacular images

Updated: 2011-06-09 16:19


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Solar flare erupts, creating spectacular images
A handout picture shows the Sun as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 9, 2011. The sun is entering a more active phase due to peak in 2013 on a roughly 11-year sunspot cycle, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. Power supplies, air traffic control, communications and satellites can all be disrupted by storms. [Photo/Agencies] 

WASHINGTON - A solar flare erupted from the sun in an impressive display captured by NASA cameras, but scientists say the medium-sized event will have a minimal impact, if any, on Earth.

The flare peaked early Tuesday and created a large cloud that appeared to cover almost half the surface of the sun, NASA said. A cloud of charged particles erupted from the sun's outer atmosphere and is expected to pass by Earth late Wednesday or early Thursday, causing a minor disruption to Earth's magnetic field, according to the National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center.

"This wasn't really such a big event," said Michael Hesse, chief of the space weather laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "It was spectacular to watch, but not big in terms of hazards to the Earth."

At most, the cloud that erupted from the sun may cause some brief interruptions to high-frequency radio communications, especially closer to the North and South poles, said Joe Kunches, a space scientist at SWPC. Some global positioning devices also may make tiny errors, he said.

"It doesn't look like it's going to be a direct hit on the Earth," Kunches said.

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