A Sudden Solar Storm Lights Up the Sky With 'Electric Blue Auroras'

Saturday, 21 April 2018 - 4:04PM
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Saturday, 21 April 2018 - 4:04PM
A Sudden Solar Storm Lights Up the Sky With 'Electric Blue Auroras'
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While dangerous on occasion, geomagnetic storms are typically harmless. And they're undetectable to the average person except in one way: they create lots of auroras in the night sky.

According to SpaceWeather.com, a sudden geomagnetic storm struck the Earth this past weekend after we got nailed by an 'interplanetary shock wave'. The result was that Earth's magnetosphere opened up briefly and when this happens, particles from solar winds combine with our own magnetic field and create colorful electrical phenomena. Which is, of course, the aurora borealis (or the aurora australis).

Perhaps because this isn't the typical way that geomagnetic storms happen - a frequent cause is a solar flare or a coronal mass injection - there were some especially bright auroras. Reports of electric blue auroras and other colors were stretching all over the northern hemisphere, while other sightings occurred in southern locations like Australia and Tasmania:










The source of the shockwave seems to be connected to a hole in the sun's corona seen last week, which resulted in a burst of charged particles that collided into our own planet. Holes in the sun's outer atmosphere are more common when the sun is less active, and will be among the subjects studied when NASA launches their Parker Solar Probe to the edge of the sun's corona this summer.

On the more rare instances where a geomagnetic storm actually does more than simply create auroras, they can lead to disruptions in radio communications or GPS systems, or in worst case scenarios, electrical blackouts. The storms resulting from the recent sun-hole were only classified as G1, which is minor. These past storms seem to be more of the same. 

There's a lot we still need to learn about auroras, but much of the time, NASA, ESA and other space agencies appreciate it when citizen scientists take photos of auroras or other phenomena which resemble auroras, as it helps them with their research when they typically look at the Earth's magnetosphere from overhead satellites.

But really, everyone appreciates a good photo of the aurora borealis.

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