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The following is from an online story posted by National Geographic News on January 24, 2012:
Earth is currently weathering the largest solar storm recorded in more than eight years, thanks to a giant wave of charged particles from the sun that slammed into the planet's magnetic field Tuesday morning.
In the early hours on Monday, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught an extreme ultraviolet flash from a solar flare, which was followed by a giant coronal mass ejection, or CME—a cloud of superheated gas and charged particles hurled off the sun.
The cloud headed toward Earth at a speed of about three million miles (4.8 million kilometers) an hour, reaching the planet a mere 35 hours after it had been unleashed. [more]