BOULDER, Colo. -- Telecommunications may be disrupted briefly and the northerly night skies will shimmer red and green this weekend as intense storms rage on the sun, scientists say.
The biggest sunspot cluster seen in at least 10 years has developed on the upper right face of the sun's disc, according to satellite readings. Researchers said the sunspot could persist for several days.
The sunspot, which is a cooler, darker region on the sun's surface, is caused by temporarily distorted magnetic fields. It spawns tremendous eruptions, or flares, into the sun's atmosphere and hurls clouds of electrified gas toward Earth.
NASA scientists said the most powerful flare erupted Thursday, rated a class X, the most potent category. The other flares were less intense.
The eruptions triggered a powerful, but brief, blackout Friday on some high-frequency radio channels and low-frequency navigational signals, scientists said. They forecast at least a 30 percent chance of continuing disruptions through Sunday.
The solar activity is also expected to produce an aurora in the night sky over northern latitudes. The colorful, shimmering glow occurs when the energetic particles strike the Earth's upper atmosphere.
In addition to radio disruptions, the charged particles can bombard satellites and orbiting spacecraft and, in rare cases, damage industrial equipment on the ground, including power generators and pipelines.
On the Net:
Sun-Earth Environment Information: www.spaceweather.com
NOAA Space Environment Center: www.sec.noaa.gov
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