Perfect Sun Storm Threatens Power, Phones

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The storm may also impede U.S. fire services as they fight to contain raging wildfires in California. Many microwave communication antennas on the ground have been damaged and scientists have told emergency personnel to be prepared for satellite communication interference.

"The most beautiful side effect is increased auroral activity, which people should see at much lower latitudes than normal," Walsh said.

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, could extend as far south as Illinois in the U.S., and London in Europe.

Magnetic Field

Walsh says the solar storm's impact will depend largely on how its magnetic field reacts with that of the Earth.

"If the magnetic fields are oppositely directed they can interact violently and that's when the real fun starts," he said. "We won't know until it actually hits. There's nothing we can do to stop the sun doing this."

Solar flares emanate from darker regions on the sun's surface known as sunspots. These contain intense concentrations of magnetic fields which can become so stressed and tangled they eventually explode, sending up to a billion tons of plasma into space. The region that produced yesterday's flare was 13 times larger than Earth.

NOAA forecasters said the probability of another major flare occurring is high, and additional geomagnetic and radiation storms are likely.

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