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Experts: Solar Storm Could Impact Satellites Fueling Our Favorite Tech Devices

Slight Chance Northern Lights Will Be Visible In New York City Tuesday Night
Solar storm

In a screen grab taken from a handout timelapse sequence provided by NASA / SDO, a solar spot in the center of the Sun is captured from which the first X-class flare was emitted in four years on Feb. 14, 2011. (Image by NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory via Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One of the largest solar storms in a decade is occurring right now. It could impact the satellites we rely on to power our favorite gadgets.

But as CBS 2’s Elise Finch reports, it’s also causing a lot of excitement.

A flash of light, a release of energy and a mass of solar material racing toward Earth, that’s what happened after a recent solar flare. And it’s a frightening thought to some people.

“The particles are really not dangerous for us on Earth because we’re protected by the atmosphere, but astronauts at the International Space Station had to take precautions,” NASA Solar Scientist Alex Young said.

There are some concerns because solar flares have been known to interfere with radio communications and disrupt satellites.

“We’re so tied into our electrical grid and our communications grids and so much of it is satellite driven that anything that even has the potential to interfere … you really need to at least pay attention and make sure you’re not going to run into trouble,” said Dan Ackerman, senior editor at CBS Interactive.

Airplanes that fly over the North and South poles had to alter their routes to avoid communication blackouts, but that has been the only reported disruption so far. A benefit has been the increase in auroras, the natural lights that appear like glowing green wisps in the sky. They can usually only be seen in places like northern Canada, but because of the solar flare residents in upstate New York should be able to see it Tuesday night.

“It’s rare so why not take advantage and try to really get the full experience of it?” said Brooklyn resident Jessica Davis.

There is a very slight chance that we could see the northern lights from the Tri-State Area on Tuesday night. So if you’re interested, keep an eye to the sky.

The year 2013 marks a peak in the solar activity cycle so our chances to see the northern lights will improve each month.

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