Solar Storm 2012 Smashes Earth; Most Powerful of the Year

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Photo Courtesy of Reuters/NASAPicture of Solar Storm 2012 captured by NASA

A powerful solar storm is hitting Earth Saturday following a massive solar flare emitted from the sun earlier this week. The strong solar storm means space weather experts are keeping a close eye on developments over Saturday and the weekend as the Earth's magnetic field is expected to be impacted.

A huge solar flare was seen from the sun on Thursday July 12, which included a big eruption from the sun called a "coronal mass ejection." That eruption sent a powerful wave of charged solar plasma toward Earth which has finally reached the Earth on Saturday, NASA and the NOAA-run Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado have reported.

It is believed the solar storm could amplify Earth's northern lights.

Center officials wrote in an update, "As the forerunner solar wind protons continue a steady increase, indicators that the CME is on the way, the wait continues for it to impact the Earth's magnetic field. Look for that in the next few hours."

The solar storm comes from one of the most powerful solar flares this year, which registered as a X1.4-class sun storm, one of the strongest flares the sun can unleash.

The eruption marked the sixth X-class solar flare of 2012.

The most recent eruption originated from the giant sunspot AR1520, or Active Region 1520, which is a group of sunspots that in the past NASA believes may have stretched across 186,000 miles of the sun's surface.

The solar storm is predicted to not pose a major risk to satellites and spacecraft in orbit, or power systems on Earth, officials have said.

The sun is currently in the middle of an active phase in its 11 year sunspot cycle, which is the reason for the increased activity from the sun in recent months. The current cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24 and is not in fact expected to peak until 2013.