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Solar storm barreling toward Earth this weekend

A solar flare is caught on camera by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory in Maryland.
July 13, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A solar storm is heading toward Earth this weekend, but scientists say not to worry.

The storm was expected to arrive Saturday morning and last through Sunday, hitting the Earth's magnetic field. Scientists say it will be a minor event and power grid operators, airlines and other affected parties have been notified.

The space storm started Thursday with a large solar flare, which released a stream of electrically charged particles.

Most of those particles will be drawn to the magnetic North and South poles. They're expected to create a colorful aurora borealis display. The shimmering northern lights may be visible at the United States-Canada border and northern Europe this weekend.

It was the sixth time this year that such a powerful solar outburst has occurred; none of the previous storms caused major problems.

In severe cases, solar storms can cause power blackouts, damage satellites and disrupt GPS signals and high-frequency radio communications. Airlines are sometimes forced to reroute flights to avoid the extra radiation around the north and south poles brought on by solar storms.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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