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NASA: No risk of 'killer' solar flares

This NASA image taken June 7, 2011, shows the sun releasing an M-2 solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm and a coronal mass ejection. UPI/NASA
This NASA image taken June 7, 2011, shows the sun releasing an M-2 solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm and a coronal mass ejection. UPI/NASA | License Photo

GREENBELT, Md., Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Worries that a killer solar flare could strike Earth in 2012 are unfounded, even as solar activity ramps up in its usual 11-year cycle, NASA scientists say.

Although great bursts of electromagnetic energy and particles can sometimes stream from the sun -- creating disruptions with signal transmission from GPS satellites and even potentially inducing electric fluctuations at ground level that could blow out transformers in power grids -- solar flares from the sun are not physically capable of destroying Earth, a NASA release said Thursday.

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There simply isn't enough energy in the sun to send a killer fireball 93 million miles to destroy Earth, NASA heliophysicist Alex Young said.

Solar flares are a problem the same way hurricanes are a problem, he said, meaning advance information can allow proper precautions.

Scientists at NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration can give warnings to electric companies, spacecraft operators, and other concerned entities when the most intense forms of space weather are on their way, Young said.

Improving these predictive abilities is one of the reasons NASA studies the sun and space weather, he said.

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