The past few days, the Sun erupted with a series of powerful flares, including some X-class monsters, and sent billions upon billions of charged particles, into space. Well, come yesterday evening, the first blast of energy from the Sun finally made it to Earth. Result: Northern Lights are being observed far South of their normal limit and, as Sunspot 1302 continues to turn toward Earth, more could be on the way.
In fact, according to spaceweather.com, more will be coming over the next few days. In addition, the website already has a large gallery of aurora images from last night.
When the highly-charged particles of energy hit our upper atmosphere, they interact with Earth’s magnetic field, causing disruptions in electronic communications. In 1989, a solar storm was so strong that it knocked out power over a large part of Canada. Besides the electronic glitches, the highly charged particles from the Sun interacting with the atoms in our upper atmosphere can cause something else: aurora, more commonly known as the Northern and Southern lights, which are essentially a natural ‘neon’ light display..
For us living in the Northern hemisphere, auroras are common in high latitudes such as Canada, the Scandinavian countries, and higher. For those at mid latitudes, such as Cleveland’s 41 degrees North, auroras don’t find their way into our skies very often.
Tonight and the next few could be the exception.
Because the blasts of energy from the Sun were so powerful, experts are forecasting that auroras may be seen tonight at lower than normal latitudes, which can include Northeast Ohio. Auroras have been seen here before. In May, 2005, I saw a stunning display of auroras that ranged from purple overhead to green curtains near the horizon. Needless to say, they were spectacular.
So how about tonight?
Well, the firstthing to do is see if it will be clear near you. If the forecast is looking even somewhat reasonable, be sureto take a look as the Northern Lights do not usually make it this far South.
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