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Giant solar storm barrelling toward our planet no big deal, says space weather forecaster (+video)

In severe cases, solar storms can cause power outages, damage satellites, and disrupt GPS signals, but a US Space Weather Prediction Center forecaster says it will be 'a minor event.'

The sun's surface erupted into an angry solar flare on July 12, 2012 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

The X1.4-class flare unleashed about 1 billion hydrogen bombs' worth of energy into space. Right behind it is a slower-moving coronal mass ejection, or CME, which is a belch of solar particles.

When strong CME's reach Earth, they can peel back Earth's magnetic layers, cause dazzling auroras, affect satellites in space and even fluctuate power grids.
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A solar storm was due to arrive Saturday morning and last through Sunday, slamming into Earth's magnetic field. Scientists said it will be a minor event, and they have notified power grid operators, airlines and other potentially affected parties.

"We don't see any ill effects to any systems," said forecaster Joe Kunches at the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado.

There's a bright side to stormy space weather: It tends to spawn colorful northern lights as the charged particles bombard Earth's outer magnetic field. Shimmering auroras may be visible at the United States-Canada border and northern Europe this weekend, Kunches said.

The storm began Thursday when the sun unleashed a massive flare that hurled a cloud of highly charged particles racing toward Earth at 3 million mph (4.8 million kph). It was the sixth time this year that such a powerful solar outburst has occurred. None of the previous storms caused major problems.

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