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Spectacular solar storm to hit Earth today!

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is in its first year on orbit, has beamed back the high-definition images and video of the event.

An unusual solar storm could hit Earth in the next 24 hours, warns NASA. According to the U.S. space agency, the sun has unleashed a medium-sized solar flare early yesterday morning (June 7, 2011), which could cause some disruptions to satellite communications and power grids on Earth within a day or so.

Scientists said a NASA space observatory Tuesday observed an explosion on the surface of the sun, which according to the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) released a solar flare that could affect Earth’s communications.

An unusual solar blast
According to NWS, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured a spectacular blast from the sun that had unleashed a firestorm of radiation on a level not witnessed since 2006.

The M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare is moving away from the sun at 1,400 km per second, and will likely lead to moderate geomagnetic storm activity by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

"This one was rather dramatic," said Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at the NWS's Space Weather Prediction Center, noting that the flare peaked at 1:41 am Eastern Time in the United States, or 0541 GMT.

"We saw the initial flare occurring and it wasn't that big but then the eruption associated with it -- we got energy particle radiation flowing in and we got a big coronal mass injection," he said.

"You can see all the materials blasting up from the Sun so it is quite fantastic to look at."

According to Murtagh, the possible solar storm could disrupt power grids, satellites, and may cause the rerouting of some flights away from the polar regions.

SDO beamed back stunning solar eruption images
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is in its first year on orbit, has beamed back the high-definition images and video of the event.

The observatory described the solar storm as "visually spectacular," but noted that since the eruption was not pointed directly at Earth, the effects were expected to remain "fairly small."

“The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7, 2011 from sunspot complex 1226-1227. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface,” said a NASA statement.

Solar storm could hit the Earth
The space agency said possible geomagnetic storms caused by the explosion could deliver “a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8 or June 9. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the CME arrives.”

According to Murtagh, the possible solar storm could disrupt power grids, satellites, and may cause the rerouting of some flights away from the polar regions.

C. Alex Young, a solar astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center who runs a website called The Sun Today, has also described the event as “a quite spectacular prominence eruption that had a solar flare and high-energy particles associated with it”

"It looks like somebody just kicked a giant clod of dirt into the air and then it fell back down," Young said.

He added, "It's nothing we really have to worry about…It's just really, really beautiful."