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Sun shoots another mass of energy at Earth

Aurora over Finland on April 11  

(CNN) -- Several powerful solar salvos are heading toward Earth, where they could cause another round of dazzling auroras and disrupt some radio communications.

A pair of so-called coronal mass ejections, filled with billions of tons of radiation and ionized particles, left the sun on April 11 and April 12. They could arrive on Friday and Saturday, space weather forecasters said.

These pictures were taken between March 20 and 24 in Fairbanks, Alaska, by Jan Curtis with The Alaska Climate Research Center


At the peak of an 11-year cycle of activity, the sun has become increasingly stormy and has belched forth numerous coronal mass ejections in recent months, including some directed toward our planet.

Such storms have intensified nighttime aurora light shows. A pair of such solar bursts buffeted the Earth's magnetosphere earlier this week, spurring dramatic auroras in the extreme latitudes. In March, in the Northern Hemisphere, the so-called northern lights dipped down as far south as Texas and Mexico.

A potentially hazardous solar flare leapt from the sun Thursday. Considered a powerful flare, the eruption might have spawned a solar storm heading toward our planet.

A closeup image of Wednesday's solar flare  

Such a storm takes a day or two to arrive. But the flare did produce one immediate effect, according to, a quasi-government Web site monitoring solar activity.

The blast triggered an hour-long disturbance of high-frequency radio communications across the Atlantic Ocean. Such radio systems are used by the military and airlines. The extent of the disruption would likely not be known for a day or two, said Eric Ort, a space weather forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But aircraft and ships have a variety of means to mitigate or avoid communications problems, for example, using higher radio frequencies or satellite communications.

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Jouni Jussila's aurora gallery
NOAA's Space Weather Now
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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