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WASHINGTON -- An impressive solar flare is heading toward Earth and could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights.

Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center said the sun erupted Tuesday evening and the effects should start smacking Earth late Wednesday night, close to midnight EST. They say it is the biggest in five years and growing.

The magnetic storm has the potential to trip electrical power grids. Its radio emissions can disrupt global positioning systems to make them less accurate. It also could damage satellites. Scientists said communication problems and radiation from the storm will probably force airplanes to avoid flying over the north and south poles. Colorful auroras may be more visible.

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