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Strong solar storm disrupt communications produce northern lights US

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NOAA has issued alerts to operators of power plants and spacecraft in orbit to take precautions due to strong solar flares produced by the sun. These flares have resulted in multiple outbursts of plasma that have the potential to disrupt satellites in orbit and power grids on Earth. Each eruption, known as a coronal mass ejection, contains billions of tons of plasma and magnetic field from the sun's outer atmosphere.

The sunspot associated with these flares is 16 times the diameter of Earth, according to NOAA. In 2003, an extreme geomagnetic storm caused power outages in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa. The current storm could produce northern lights as far south as Alabama and Northern California in the U.S.

The most intense solar storm in recorded history occurred in 1859, causing auroras in central America and possibly even Hawaii. While NOAA is not anticipating a similar extreme-level event, the current storm could come close. It's a rare event, but precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of power plants and spacecraft in orbit.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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