Stunning auroras sparked by solar flare

mone8 March 8, 2012 Comments Off

“Glowing green and red, shimmering hypnotically across the night sky, the aurora borealis is a wonder to behold,” says NASA Science’s Tony Phillips.

Still taken from NASA’s ScienceCasts: Auroras Underfoot.

(Credit:
NASA Science)

A spectacular show of auroras could be visible over the next couple of days as far south as Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Washington State in the U.S. as well as parts of the U.K., New Zealand, and Iceland, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These auroras are being caused by a solar flare that burst off the sun last night causing a massive solar storm of charged particles to hurtle toward Earth and crash into the planet’s magnetic field. When the particles hit Earth’s protective shell they light up the atmosphere wherever they hit.

“Glowing green and red, shimmering hypnotically across the night sky, the aurora borealis is a wonder to behold,” production editor at NASA Science Tony Phillips, wrote in a statement today. “Longtime sky watchers say it is the greatest show on Earth.”

According to the Web site Arctic Range, auroral activity will surge through tonight and peak tomorrow. However, this could change–according to AccuWeather, scientists predict another solar flare, possibly the strongest this year, to erupt the morning of March 8. Another flare would send even more charged particles toward Earth.

The flare that was ejected yesterday is the second major solar flare to cause stunning auroras this year. The first happened in late January, which produced some the most dramatic and colorful light shows in years.

Phillips wrote that after several years of “deep quiet, the sun is waking up again” and solar activity appears to be trending upward with a maximum expected in early 2013. “This means the greatest show on Earth–and in Earth orbit–is about to get even better,” he wrote.

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