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UPDATED 3/12/12 7:30 a.m. ET. Trouble with your GPS? Your computer is mysteriously rebooting? Your cell phone isn't working? It could be due to the effects of a solar storm. Sunspot 1429 has sent 3 coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and at least 3 solar flares in the past week.
On March 8 at at 10:53 p.m. ET the sun discharged an M6.3 class solar flare, and about an hour later released a coronal mass ejection. The lastest CME is expected to trigger solar storms of moderate intensity (G2) on March 12 and March 13.
On Thursday NASA reported that two CMEs from the sun hit Earth at around 5:45 a.m. PT. Originally it was thought that the two CMEs would cause the worst solar storm in five years but fortunately that was not the case.
The National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center said the solar storm caused by the CMEs did reach a S3 (severe) level overnight Thursday and into Friday morning. But has leveled off.
A solar flare is "an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. Flares are our solar system’s largest explosive events," according to NASA
A coronal mass ejection happens when strong magnetic fields in the sun's carona "are closed, the confined solar atmosphere can suddenly and violently release bubbles of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections," according to NASA. CMEs can send billions of tons of matter at millions of miles per hour.
The images above show the formation of the CME on March 8. It is now heading toward Earth.
Credit: SOHO/ESA & NASA