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Geomagnetic storm and aurora possible later this week after big solar flare

A sunspot in the lower left quadrant of the sun produced an M-class flare on Monday morning along with a coronal mass ejection that could cause geomagnetic storming (and vivid auroras) here on Earth later this week. (NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

Another round of beautiful aurora may grace our high-latitude skies later this week thanks to a moderately strong solar flare that lashed out from the sun on Monday morning.

Now heading toward a solar minimum, the sun has been in a relatively quiet period until today when sunspot 2449 erupted in a moderately strong M-class solar flare. Flares of this size have the potential to cause radio-blackouts here on Earth within less than an hour.

The solar flare’s associated coronal mass ejection, or CME, does not appear to be headed straight for Earth, but it could brush our planet later this week. If it does, geomagnetic storm watches or warnings may be posted, and the aurora could be vivid.

The sun has been fairly inactive over the past couple of months, except for the persistent solar wind from an Earth-facing coronal hole. While sunspots periodically erupt in electromagnetic radiation that sometimes streams toward Earth, coronal holes are massive spouts of energy that spew magnetic flux in whatever direction its pointed.

[Photos: Gorgeous aurora paint the high-latitude skies]

A coronal hole’s solar wind has been sparking beautiful aurora across the high latitudes over the past week or so, stretching as far south as the Midwest.

Sunspot 2449 unleashed an M-class solar flare on Monday morning, and could lead to geomagnetic storming and vivid aurora later this week. (Video: NASA)

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