Biggest solar storm in years slams Earth, few problems reported

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WAUKESHA -- One of the strongest solar storms in years engulfed Earth early Thursday, but scientists say the planet may have lucked out.

Hours after the storm arrived, officials said there were no reports of problems with power grids, GPS, satellites or other technologies that are often disrupted by solar storms.

One of those most interested in what's been happening is Rich Talcott, senior editor for Waukesha-based Astronomy magazine. He's been paying very close attention to the coronal mass ejections or CMEs.

CMEs are created by a solar storm, which over the past couple of days, has involved strong solar flares, sending countless charged particles toward Earth at around 4 million miles an hour.

While that speed is impressive, the sight it creates as those charged particles gather to form the Northern Lights, is doubly so.

"They usually stick up around the north pole and the south pole," said Talcott. "But, what happens, occasionally -- when there's a large influx of theses particles, is that that region expands southward, and so you can end up seeing them down in Wisconsin."

Talcott says solar activity is just beginning to approach the peak of its 11-year cycle, so he expects the next couple of years could offer similar sights.

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