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Blast of solar particles reaching Earth on Thursday; could cause minor disruptions

By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun

10:40 AM EDT, August 22, 2013

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An eruption of charged particles from the sun is hurtling toward Earth and could cause minor disruptions in the power grid and satellite communications, as well as brighten displays of the "Northern Lights", near the poles through Thursday evening.

The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a warning through 7 p.m. local time of potential geomagnetic disruptions. The area of expected impact should not come further south than Canada in North America.

A coronal mass ejection, in which a burst of plasma and magnetic fields is released from the sun, occurred early Tuesday morning. While such phenomena occur frequently, they aren't always directed toward Earth.

This one is indeed headed toward Earth, at 570 miles per second, according to NASA.

Coronal mass ejections can cause geomagnetic storms on Earth, in which a surge of energy is funneled into Earth's magnetosphere. That can degrade satellite communications, affecting things like GPS and satellite TV, and can also distrupt the electricity grid by causing unexpected power surges, according to NASA.

Odds are you won't notice signs of a geomagnetic storm in Maryland, but if you do, know that it has traveled nearly 93 million miles in two days to get here.