A massive solar storm grazed Earth on Monday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
In a statement released by NOAA, a massive solar flare — the strongest one to date this year — erupted early Monday, slamming Earth’s magnetic field. Astronomers say they massive coronal mass ejection is from the same active region of the sun that triggered a raging solar storm earlier this week.

Sunspot 1402 let loose with an X-class flare, the most powerful class of solar outburst, at 1:37 p.m. ET today, and NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a sequence of ultraviolet images as the blast went out. The solar storm was not aimed directly at Earth, instead a stream of charged particles grazed the Earth’s protective shield.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center reports that the flare created R3-level radio blackouts at about 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday. That level could results sin wide-area losses of high-frequency radio comunication, as well as a temporary degradation of low-frequency GPS signals, according to the agency.
The massive solar storms comes as NASA’s latest mission to Mars received a welcome surprise last week: another large solar storm that allowed the spacecraft to measure the radiation a human astronaut could be exposed to en route to the Red Planet.

The second largest solar particle event since 2005 hit the Earth, Mars and the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft travelling in-between, allowing the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector to measure the radiation from the coronal mass ejection (CME).

On Sunday, a huge CME erupted from the surface of the sun, sending a cloud of charged particles towards Earth and Mars, and causing a strong “S3″ solar storm. A NASA Goddard Space Weather Lab animation of the CME illustrates how the disturbance impacts Earth, Mars and several spacecraft. Solar storms can affect the Earth’s aurorae, satellites, air travel and GPS systems; no harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event.

“We only have a few hours of data downloaded from the RAD so far, but we clearly see the event, said RAD Principal Investigator Don Hassler, science program director in the Space Studies Department at Southwest Research Institute. “This SPE encounter is particularly exciting in light of the alignment between the Earth, MSL and Mars right now and for the next few months. It will be very interesting to compare the RAD data, collected from inside the capsule, with the data from other spacecraft.”

This event has also been seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, Geostationary Operational Environment Satellites, the Advanced Composition Explorer, and the twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft in Earth orbit as well as the Solar Heliospheric Observatory flying between Earth and the sun.
The solar storm, which is just the latest to bombard Earth, has put on a show for stargazers and astronomers alike. The solar storms have also caused a bit of havoc for NASA, which had to take into consideration astronauts working on the International Space Station. The mass of energy poses problems to astronauts and spacecraft, which do not have the added protection of the Earth’s magnetic field.

The solar storms have also caused problems for airlines, which as a safety precaution have rerouted flights flying over the North Pole. The resulting streams of radiation that bounce across the Earth’s magnetic field are able to cause long lasting radiation storms that could also impact satellite and ground communications systems.

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