Sun erupts with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME - 20 Jun 2013 | © NASA | Goddard | SDO | Rex Features

Sun erupts with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME - 20 Jun 2013 (© NASA/Goddard/SDO/Rex Features)

A powerful storm erupted from the sun's surface early Tuesday, firing off a cloud of superheated particles directly at Earth, reports Space.com. The coronal mass ejection sent billions of tons of solar particles toward Earth at 2 million mph. NASA officials called the speed "fairly typical for CMEs."

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Particles from CMEs generally take two or three days to reach Earth. If they're strong enough, they can cause geomagnetic storms that disrupt GPS signals and power grids, although Tuesday's blast most likely won't. NASA says that in the past, geomagnetic storms caused by CMEs of this strength have been mild. Tuesday's eruption might cause some impressive auroras, though. If you live at a higher latitude, be sure to watch the night sky this week for a spectacular, supercharged northern lights show.

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The sun is approaching the most active phase of its 11-year cycle, but scientists say this solar maximum is turning out to be the weakest of the past century. Compared with previous maximums, there have been relatively few solar flares or CMEs. If you want to see the aurora, this week may be your best chance for a long time.

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