Solar flare impacts life on Earth

Solar flare's impact on Earth
The recent solar flare that caught the eye of scientists around the world blasted a vast cloud of atomic particles toward Earth creating a vivid light show and interfering with satellite transmissions and GPS. Bill Whitaker reports.

The biggest solar storm in eight years just hit Earth.

The storm gave Canada and Scandinavia a beautiful show, but some experts say the storm had a real impact on the planet.

Pictures: Spectacular solar storm reaches Earth

The solar storm forced some utilities to boost power to compensate for electrical interference. It interfered with some satellite transmissions and forced some planes to reroute because of radio interference near the North Pole.

While scientists were keeping a watchful eye on the most powerful solar storm in years, people lucky enough to live in northern latitudes, from Canada to Scandinavia, were able to watch the spectacular storm. All around the top of the earth, solar particles colliding with the earth's magnetic field created an aurora borealis (or northern lights) that was out of this world.

While the northern lights were visible with the naked eye, scientists witnessed the beginning of the storm with satellites. A massive solar flare that erupted Sunday from the sun's surface, spewed a vast cloud of protons, electrons and atomic particles -- a billion tons of charged particles -- hurtling toward Earth at four million miles per hour.

Douglas Beisecker who monitored the solar storm from the government's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., told CBS News, "This radiation storm is long lasting. These effects don't come around very often, but when they do you have to live with them for several days."

To see the solar storm and Bill Whitaker's full report, click on the video in the player above.