Photo: NASA / Reuters NASA handout image shows the Sun acquired by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. A strong geomagnetic storm is racing from the Sun toward Earth, and its expected arrival on Thursday could affect power grids, airplane routes and space-based satellite navigation systems, U.S. space weather experts, March 8, 2012.
Photo: NASA / Reuters NASA handout image shows the Sun acquired by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. A strong geomagnetic storm is racing from the Sun toward Earth, and its expected arrival on Thursday could affect power grids, airplane routes and space-based satellite navigation systems, U.S. space weather experts, March 8, 2012.

A massive solar storm that could create havoc for everything from mobile phones to airline flights may reach Earth on Thursday.

Scientists at the U.S. space agency NASA say they observed two solar flares Tuesday, along with two coronal mass ejections sending massive amounts of energy and charged particles shooting out of the sun.

Forecasters say the solar particles will strike the Earth at a speed of more than six-million kilometers an hour.  The storm could disrupt radio communications, satellite networks, global positioning systems and electricity grids.  A scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says some airlines have begun canceling some flights as a precaution.

NASA says it does not believe the storm will affect the International Space Station or its six-member crew.

The storm may also produce brilliant auroras, also known as the Northern and Southern Lights, which occur as the particles from the solar ejection mix with the Earth’s magnetic fields.

Scientists say the storm is part of the sun’s normal 11-year cycle, when activity on the surface rises to its peak level.  A strong storm in 1989 knocked out the power grid in Quebec, leaving millions of residents without electricity.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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