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Biggest Solar Flare In Years Headed For Earth

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(NASA)

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The sun is making a comeback.

OK, so it never really went away, but after years of relative quiet on our nearest star, activity has picked up as of late, resulting in a solar flare that marks the strongest since 2006.

Bob Rutledge, lead forecaster with the National Space Weather Prediction Center, tells KFWB’s Michael Shappee these solar outbursts have the potential to wreak havoc with earthly communications.

After the initial blast of radiation accompanying the coronal mass ejection (CME) — the first of its magnitude to occur in the new solar cycle of activity — a huge cloud of charged particles is headed toward Earth and is expected likely to arrive on Feb. 17-18.

Among the many potential disasters that can come from a massive CME: disturbances in the planet’s geomagnetic field that may lead to malfunctioning telecom and GPS satellite equipment.

While forecasters predict no major impact on our telecommunications infrastructure, meteorological officials say the flare has disrupted radio communications in southern China.

Scientists have pointed out that activity on the sun is now ramping up ahead of an expected solar maximum around 2013.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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