FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021, 11 p.m.
AUTHOR: Alexandru Buzica
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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Meteorological Prediction Center (NOAA), the Sun launched two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on November 1 and 2.
CMEs are solar flares that throw a magnetic field into space (magnetic storms) – and in this case, to Earth.
When these magnetic disturbances hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere, they can cause geomagnetic storms. These storms are capable of disrupting satellite communications and other electronic components. It also causes particles in the magnetic field around the Earth to emit light, creating the etheric spectacle known as the polar aurora.
The polar aurora, also known as the northern aurora and southern aurora, usually remains at high latitudes near the poles. But a strong solar storm can make the phenomenon visible further south.
According to Sky News, the latest geomagnetic disturbance has made the northern lights visible in the UK sky.
The same phenomenon occurred in October in Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and New England.
PHOTO CREDIT: Julius Bobiarski via Storyful / Aurora in North America
When predicting the aurora, scientists use something called the Planetary K-index, which measures geomagnetic storms on a 9-point scale. Five or more indicate a geomagnetic storm. As of November 4, the K index ranged from 6 to 7.
The space weather prediction center also provides a 30-minute forecast of auroral activity showing the location and intensity of the aurora.
The polar aurora may be unpredictable, but the same rules apply to observing the aurora as to watching the stars: the best views are likely to be found on cloudless nights away from city lights. You don’t have to be right under the lights to see them; according to NOAA, the aurora can be visible from hundreds of miles away if conditions are right.
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