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Sun unleashes massive solar flare pointed toward Earth

4:16 PM, Jul 12, 2012   |    comments
A NASA photograph shows a massive solar flare erupting from the sun Thursday afternoon, July 12, 2012. (NASA)
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ATLANTA -- NASA reports that an X-class solar flare erupted from the sun shortly before 1 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday. The flare marks the most intensive solar flare eruption of an increasing series of flares over the past several weeks.

X-class solar flares are the most powerful flares that can be unleashed by the sun, and if they hit Earth head-on, can cause radio blackouts and create havoc for electronic devices on the earth.

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Large solar flares generally cause aurora borealis displays at lower lattitudes. An X-class flare that erupted from the sun in January caused aurora displays to be seen as far south as the lower midwestern states.

Thursday's flare was preliminarily noted as an X1.4 by NASA scientists. Photographs from scientific observatories on Earth and in orbit indicate the flare was likely pointed toward Earth, though additional measurements were taking place Thursday afternoon.

Scientists with the National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center say effects from the solar flare are expected to get to Earth at about 1 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday.

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