Solar max and its impact on auroras
During particularly strong space weather events – which are more common during solar maximum – Earth’s magnetic field is disturbed, and geomagnetic storms can penetrate the magnetosphere and lead to widespread radio and power blackouts as well as endangering astronauts and Earth-orbiting satellites. One notable example occurred in 1989 when a CME accompanied a solar flare and plunged the entire province of Quebec, Canada into an electrical blackout that lasted around 12 hours according to NASA.
However, not all magnetosphere interferences are destructive, and one result in particular can be spectacular displays in the skies known as auroras. Specifically, the phenomenon is known as the northern lights (aurora borealis) in the Northern Hemisphere and the southern lights (aurora australis) in the Southern Hemisphere and is triggered by energetic particles being redirected toward Earth’s poles and colliding with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere. Just this past weekend, two coronal mass ejections hit the Earth’s atmosphere and the double-blow sparked strong geomagnetic storms and spectacular auroras seen as far south as Texas and Colorado.
Auroras have intrigued humans for millennia with their wispy ribbons of light dancing across the sky. This spectacle is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in the world and their occurrence is dependent on solar activity. The more active the sun, the higher the chance of vibrant auroras, and this is why we can expect more frequent sensational displays over the next few years.
Meteorologist Paul Dorian
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