A HUGE solar flare blasted from the sun's surface at 3.1million miles per hour on Monday - and it's heading in our direction.
It sounds like the plot of a blockbuster disaster movie, but here Sun professor Brian Cox explains why there is no need to panic.
THE sun is a giant nuclear reactor the size of a million earths.
It is a giant, violent cauldron of decimated atoms and, occasionally, it has a spot of bad weather.
On Monday the bad weather arrived in magnificent style as a billion tons of superheated matter were blasted into space in a spectacular event known as a solar flare.
Here on earth we won't feel a thing - it is relatively small and the explosion did not point directly at us. If you live in the far north you might see the Northern Lights dancing across the sky as increased numbers of high-energy particles smash into Earth's magnetic field.The largest solar flare in recent history is known as the Carrington Flare. On September 1, 1859, English astronomer Richard Carrington observed a series of flashes over a group of dark areas on the sun's surface, known as sunspots.
The darkened skies of London were bathed in a spectacular display of the Northern Lights, which are rarely visible from southern Britain. It was said that you could read a newspaper by their light.
But there is a much more threatening side. In 1859 the entire telegraph system failed as powerful electrical currents swept through the wires. Operators got electric shocks and the paper caught fire.
If a Carrington-sized flare hit today, it is thought that a large fraction of the satellites in orbit may be permanently damaged, leading to a communications blackout and potential chaos.
Fortunately, these massive explosions occur only once every 500 years, but this week's little blip serves as a reminder of the power of our nearby, friendly yet threatening star.