Northern Lights Alert: Solar Storm Could Bring Striking Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights Alert: Solar Storm Could Bring Striking Aurora Borealis

Got weekend plans? Maybe pencil in some celestial gazes. And keep batteries and a weather radio nearby, just in case. The Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration a Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch Beginning Friday, May 10. This can bring the joy of viewing the Northern Lights, but can also cause problems for power grids.

“At least five Earth-directed coronal mass ejections were observed and are expected to arrive by noon on Friday, May 10, 2024, and continue through Sunday, May 12, 2024,” the center noted. Noted. “Several strong flares have been observed over the past few days and were associated with a large and magnetically complex sunspot cluster, 16 times the diameter of Earth.”

In most cases, Geomagnetic storms cause little or no disturbance to EarthOften affected by radio communications and satellites. In extreme cases, a geomagnetic storm can cause significant and potentially fatal power outages, as well as problems with satellite systems and radio communications.

“Geomagnetic storms can affect infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth's surface, potentially affecting communications, electric power grids, navigation, radio and satellite operations,” NOAA said. It added that representatives of the Center have informed the operators of these systems so that they can take precautionary measures.

The Washington Post notes. that “anyone using high-frequency radio in the aurora viewing zone may experience some interference”, but also reports that most people will not be affected or need to take any more special precautions than any storm. Needs that can knock out electricity. .

Since consumer wireless networks use different radio frequencies, CNN notes That your phone is unlikely to be affected. Severe geomagnetic storms can affect the power grid, but wireless carriers usually have backups and can deploy mobile cellular towers.

Tips for Aurora Viewing

In most cases, geomagnetic storms also offer unique opportunities to view the aurora in the night sky. When tornadoes strike, they create the plasma they carry. A jaw-dropping auroraIlluminating the night sky with brilliant colors. Those auroras can be especially pronounced during the storm's most intense phases, allowing the stars to be seen well.

“Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular aurora displays on Earth,” the NOAA statement said. “A severe geomagnetic storm includes the possibility of Aurora visible as far south as Alabama and northern California.”

Think you can? Never see the hyped aurora where you live? Bill Murtagh, program coordinator for NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, spoke to CNET about the same issue in 2022. Murtagh compares it to a popular outdoor hobby that requires a lot of patience — fishing.

“You might be hunting for it for hours,” he told me, “and then, the perfect storm of events happens, and you finally see it.”

He also noted that city dwellers are at a disadvantage due to light pollution, which is exactly what it sounds like, from night sky glare in the city, street lights and other sources. It blocks our ability to see the stars and planets.

But say you get in a car and drive out of your city or suburbs into a rural area where there are no street lights. There's another factor that's out of your control — the weather. Cloudy conditions can envelop any state at any time, making aurora sightings even more difficult to predict.

Many people travel to Alaska or northern countries just hoping to see and photograph an aurora. Murtagh recommends Anchorage, Fairbanks, Yukon, Helsinki and northern Scandinavia. There are even now trip planners who organize tours around the hope of seeing the aurora.

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