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Don't freak out, but the center of the sun exploded: Solar flare CMEs headed our way

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An X1.4 class solar flare exploded from the center of the sun on Thursday, but it's unclear whether Earth will feel the effects. The flare, peaking on July 12, erupted from "Active Region 1520," a giant sunspot.

The associated coronal mass ejections -- described by NASA as "huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the sun" -- have the potential to produce Earthly disturbances "with sometimes catastrophic results."

Disruptions to the magnetic field, and to our power grids and communication systems, are possible according to some space weather forecasters. NASA and NOAA had inconsistent predictions about the severity, speed and arrival time of the charged particle blast (the Washington Post has a detailed breakdown on the breakdown in communication between the federal agencies).

The solar storm may also contribute to a colorful northern lights situtation this weekend, possibly producing auroras at the U.S./Canada border and in northern Europe.

Questions? The space agency prepared these handy answers. And released some flashy footage of the massive flare:

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