Severe solar storm: Northern lights to be visible across almost all of US - Hindustan Times
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Severe solar storm: Northern lights to be visible across almost all of US

ByArya Vaishnavi
May 11, 2024 02:57 AM IST

Solar eruptions were first observed on Wednesday, with at least five more heading towards the Earth by Friday at around 8 pm ET

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a “severe” geomagnetic storm warning for the first time since 2005. A series of solar flares and eruptions from the Sun's corona are expected, starting Friday through the weekend. The intensity of the solar storm will supercharge the northern lights, making it visible as far South as northern California and Alabama.

Severe solar storms are set to supercharge northern lights across the US
Severe solar storms are set to supercharge northern lights across the US

Solar storm to supercharge northern lights across US

The agency said that the intensity of the current solar storm is likely to supercharge northern lights across the US, including southern states. “Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora on Earth. A severe geomagnetic storm includes the potential for aurora to be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California,” the NOAA said in a statement.

Shawn Dahl, a service coordinator at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, told NBC News that while auroras far South may not be visible to the naked eye, cameras and smartphones could succeed in capturing such imagery. This is because the sensors on such devices are more prone to picking up the wavelengths produced by an aurora. Hence, if you are in an area with chances of northern lights sighting, you should click photographs of the night sky.

Severe geomagnetic storm warning issued

Solar eruptions were first observed on Wednesday, with at least five more heading towards the Earth by Friday at around 8 pm ET, per NBC News. The Sun goes through 11-year activity cycles, with the current cycle expected to peak in 2025. According to NOAA, these solar storms are classified on a “G” scale of 1 to 5, with G5 being labelled as “extreme.”

Should you be worried?

The current solar storm has been classified as a G4, which translates to “severe.” While these geomagnetic warnings are not meant for the common folk, excessive expulsions from the Sun can significantly disrupt communications and power grids on Earth and nearby satellites in space.

Rob Steenburgh, a space scientist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said, “For most people here on planet Earth, they won’t have to do anything,” adding, “If everything is working like it should, the grid will be stable and they’ll be able to go about their daily lives.”

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