Three views over time of the coronal mass ejection (CME) released by the sun on Feb. 9, 2013 as seen by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). CREDIT: ESA&NASA/SOHO  Enlarge

A long-lasting solar flare erupted from the sun early Saturday (Feb. 9), triggering an intense sun eruption aimed squarely at Earth. The solar storm, however, should not endanger satellites or astronauts in space, but could amplify auroras on Earth, NASA says. The solar eruption —called a coronal mass ejection —occurred at 2:30 a.m. EST (0730 GMT) on Saturday during a minor, but long-duration, flare. It hurled a wave of charged particles at Earth at speeds of about 1.8 million miles per hour (nearly 2.9 million km/h).

The sun eruption was captured in photos by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency.

Coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are eruptions of charged solar material that fling solar particles out into space. When aimed at Earth, they can reach the planet between one and three days later, and cause geomagnetic storms when they interact with the planet's magnetic field. They can also amplify the northern and southern lights displays over the Earth's poles.

"In the past, CMEs at this strength have had little effect," NASA officials said in a statement. "They may cause auroras near the poles but are unlikely to disrupt electrical systems on Earth or interfere with GPS or satellite-based communications systems."

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