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Solar Flare 2011: Northern Lights So Hot They're Cool

Aurora Borealis

People not usually privy to special light shows in the sky could be in for a treat late tonight and early tomorrow

Amateur stargazers in the northern United States and England are in for a treat over the next few days thanks to a series of massive solar flares that recently ejected from the sun. It is the largest such occurrence in five years.

According to Accuweather.com, “a massive sunspot (with ‘a width nearly eight times the width of our Earth’) has unleashed significant solar flare activity over the past few days. As a result, astronomers say the northern lights might be visible at lower-than-usual latitudes tonight and into the weekend.”

When a large explosion in the Sun’s atmosphere occurs, as much as a sixth of the total energy that the Sun emits each second is disbursed. Since February 13th, there have been three energetic solar flares that have spewed charged plasma towards the Earth. As a result, if you stay up late tonight and into tomorrow, you might be able to catch a spectacular light show in the sky.

There’s a downside to the increased visibility of the Aurora Borealis, however. There is a strong possibility that there will be disruptions of power grids and communications systems all over the world. China’s Xinhua News Agency is already reporting shortwave radio communications have been jammed in the southern part of their country due to electromagnetic activity from the solar flares.

The United States National Weather Services says solar flares can adversely affect navigation systems like GPS, and shortwave broadcast and amateur radio are also vulnerable to disruption during geomagnetic storms.

Will you let you kids stay up late to watch for a light show in the night sky?

Source: The Huffington Post + Masslive.com

Image: Wikipedia

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