Huge solar storm to shower Earth with radioactive particles

Story highlights

  • Largest solar storm since 2005 to shower Earth with radioactive particles
  • Solar flare expected to affect GPS systems on Tuesday
  • Northern Lights visible as far south as Scotland and northern England

The largest solar storm for seven years is expected to send a shower of radioactive solar particles racing towards Earth at almost 1,400 miles a second this week, according to NASA.

The flare, caused by a huge eruption on the sun's surface on Sunday, is expected to affect GPS systems and other communications when it reaches the Earth's magnetic field on Tuesday..

Solar flares are our solar system's largest explosive events and can last from minutes to hours, according to NASA, releasing up to a billion tons of matter in the process.

Solar storm approaches Earth
This handout from the NOAA/National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center, shows the M3.2 solar flare on January 23, 2012. The flare is reportedly the largest since 2005 and is expected to affect GPS systems and other communications when it reaches the Earth's magnetic field in the morning of January 24.

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    Solar storm approaches Earth

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Solar storm approaches Earth 01:58

NASA says the flare may also spark an unusually large display of auroras, which may be visible at lower latitudes than normal.

The dazzling array of brightly colored lights, known as the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, can frequently be seen in northern Canada, and the far north of Europe, from Greenland to Iceland and Norway.

This week's powerful solar storm has already seen the lights visible as far south as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire, in northern England.

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