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Solar flare wreaking havoc on Earth's radio communications

Solar flare: A massive blast of charged particles ejected from the sun Monday has triggered a geomagnetic storm that is disrupting radio communications.

The afternoon sun shines bright as the Chinese national flag at the Ancient Observatory in Beijing flutters in the wind on Thursday. The largest solar flare in more than four years has caused disruptions to shortwave radio communications in China, state media has reported.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Newscom

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A whopper of a solar flare that fired up earlier this week is wreaking havoc on some radio communications on Earth, and could spark exceptional auroras soon.

The class X solar flare – the most powerful kind of solar flare – spewed from the sun Monday (Feb. 14), unleashing a massive wave of charged particles speeding toward Earth. Now the flare has triggered a geomagnetic storm in our planet's magnetic field that interrupted radio communications in China and could disrupt satellites and power grids as well, AFP reported.

Right after the mega solar flare, a first wave of radiation hit Earth.

"There were immediate (within 8 minutes — the speed of light) effects on radio communication and GPS systems right as this flare occurred," said Phil Chamberlin, deputy project scientist for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which recorded a video of the Valentine's Day flare as it erupted.

But flares like this also churn out streams of protons and electrons called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that can take 24 hours or more to reach Earth, so we are still feeling its effects.

In fact, three CMEs are making their way toward our planet right now, and are due to arrive "about mid to late day" today, Feb. 17, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported.

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