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Solar Storm: Northern Lights Visible From Solar Storm


This handout image provided by NASA, taken Sunday night, Jan. 22, 2012, shows a solar flare erupting on the Sun's northeastern hemisphere. Space weather officials say the strongest solar storm in more than six years is already bombarding Earth with radiation with more to come. (AP Photo/NASA)

The strongest solar radiation storm since 2005 is still in progress, and Americans in northern states can expect to see the effects on Tuesday night.


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The solar eruption occurred at about 11 p.m. Sunday and has hit the Earth with three different effects at three different times. The radiation first arrived an hour after the flare, and is set to continue through Wednesday.

The radiation risk could case satellite disruption and electrical grid outages, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado. Passengers on flights traveling at a high altitude are at a higher than normal radiation risk.

The first effect from the flare is electromagnetic radiation, followed by radiation in the form of protons. The actual plasma from the sun, called the coronal mass ejection, hit at around 9 a.m. Tuesday. The CME is likely to reach G2 (Moderate) levels, with a possibility of G3 (Strong) storms.

NASA’s flight surgeons and solar experts have determined that the six astronauts currently on the International Space Station are not at risk.

The plasma is what causes most of the power outages on Earth, and pulls the Northern Lights further south. On Monday night residents in Scotland, northern England, Canada and northern parts of Ireland were treated to aurora borealis.

Parts of New England, upstate New York, northern Michigan, Montana and the Pacific Northwest could also see the rare light show on Tuesday evening.

With Associated Press

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