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NOAA: Earth hit by coronal mass ejection

The sun has unleashed another massive coronal mass ejection, according to NASA.

The solar eruption occurred late Thursday when the sun unleashed what scientists call a coronal mass ejection, or CME, NASA officials said in a statement.

“Not to be confused with a solar flare, which is a burst of light and radiation, CMEs are a phenomenon that can send solar particles into space and can reach Earth one to three days later,” NASA officials said in a statement. “Experimental NASA research models show the CME to be traveling at about 400 miles per second.”

“At Earth, when the CME connected up with Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, it caused a space weather phenomenon called a geomagnetic storm. This storm was categorized by NOAA as a G2 – on a scale from G1 to G5. A storm at this level is considered reasonably mild. Auroras did appear in the north, including Canada, due to this storm,” officials added.

Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is tasked with monitoring the sun’s activity, confirmed the CME, saying it remains unclear how long the Earth will remain under impact.

“Earth remains under the influence of an October 5 coronal mass ejection (CME).  G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storm levels have been observed thus far and are still possible as this magnetic cloud continues to affect Earth,” said a posting on the agency’s website.

NASA noted that the CME would likely hit Earth sometime Tuesday, noting that the event will increase Northern light activity.

Officials at the U.S. space agency would not comment on whether the storm will impact devices relying on satellite technology. When Earth-directed, CMEs can affect electronic systems in satellites. CMEs, however, have not generally caused major effects in the past.

“High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially during the hours around local midnight,” officials wrote.

The CME comes as officials at NASA have warned that the sun is reaching the peak of it current cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, which began in 2008. Officials say similar outburst will only become more common as our sun nears its maximum level of activity in 2013.