Largest solar flare in over four years due to reach earth tomorrow

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A huge solar flare that exploded out from the surface of the Sun on Tuesday is expected to reach earth tomorrow, Thursday 11th August.

The enormously energetic flare sent out powerful X-rays, ultraviolet radiation and ten billion tons of highly charged plasma ions into space at five million miles per hour.

Solar flares occur on the surface of the Sun when magnetic field lines get all tangled up in knots, building up potential energy until they can no longer contain that energy which then violently converts into heat, light and the motion of a plasma of charged particles.

The flares can knock out satellites, radio communications and national power grids; fortunately, the eruption event occurred on the side of the sun facing away from the Earth, so satellites, communication systems and national power grids shouldn’t be seriously affected.

The initial blast from the massive CME reached us in minutes, the much more dangerous wave of energy takes approximately three days to hit the Earth.  This gives governments time to implement pre-planned safety measures.  UK Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is considering various options including switching off the national grid entirely, causing temporary blackouts.

On the positive side exceptional auroras, or Northern and Southern Lights, are a spectacular visible side-effect for those lucky enough to see them when these charged particles interact with Earth’s magnetic field.

For those interested in the effects of powerful solar flares on Earth:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TRyuSeYAJ8