Major solar flare observed by spacecraft

March 5, 2012 at 5:27 PM

WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) -- A major solar flare erupting from the sun late Sunday is sending a solar wind of plasma and charged particles hurtling toward Earth, U.S. astronomers say.

The flare erupted at 11:13 p.m. EST, the Space Weather Prediction Center operated by the National Weather Service said.

Experts at the Space Weather Prediction Center said the so-called coronal mass ejection of plasma and charged particles will probably miss Earth, but they remain alert for minor geomagnetic storms on Tuesday and Wednesday, SPACE.com reported.

The extreme ultraviolet flash from the major flare, the second such flare so far in 2012, was observed by several spacecraft including NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory.

The location of the flare was a large sunspot region called AR1429, which has been active since it showed up on March 2, astronomers said.

Major flares, if aimed directly at Earth, it can cause disruptions to satellites in space and communications infrastructure on the ground, and are also potential hazards to astronauts on the International Space Station.

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