Thursday August 27 12:27 AM EDT

Solar eruption causes geomagnetic storm on Earth

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Solar winds blowing at more than a million miles per hour hit the Earth's magnetic field on Wednesday, sparking what U.S. government scientists say could be a significant geomagnetic storm.

The U.S. Geological Survey said charged particles from a solar eruption hit the Earth's magnetic field around 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT) and the resulting fluctuations in the field could cause power outages, satellite failures, disruption in communications and the aurora borealis.

Auroras are usually seen only in northern latitudes, but may become visible in the continental United States during this geomagnetic storm, the agency said.

While auroras are not as dramatic at mid-latitudes, they have been described in the past as resembling city lights in the sky, but in green, blue, and sometimes, red.

A severe magnetic storm in March 1989 caused the collapse of the Hydro-Quebec power system in Canada, leaving about six million people without power.

The U.S. Geological Survey operates 13 magnetic observatories throughout the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico that continuously monitor the Earth's magnetic field.

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