Monday, October 18, 2021
Home Technology Solar storm to hit Earth: Images of aurora lights

Solar storm to hit Earth: Images of aurora lights

Extraordinary images are rolling in of a spectacular light show triggered by a solar storm that’s struck Earth, with aurora lights seen in Australia.

Skygazers have spotted the Northern Lights as geomagnetic storms that struck Earth this week brought on a stunning night-time display, with aurora lights also expected to be seen from Australia.

Eyes were cast upwards to glowing skies above parts of England’s north, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

However, for other areas, cloud is likely to block the green hue of auroras sparked by the huge solar storm.

Solar storms are caused by a type of solar flare called a coronal mass ejection – a huge expulsion of plasma from the Sun’s outer layer, called the corona.

According to the US Space Weather Prediction Centre, the solar event could result in power grid fluctuations as well as “orientation irregularities” for spacecraft.

This happens when a massive burst of material from the sun causes a phenomenon known as a geomagnetic storm, which interferes with the Earth’s magnetic field.

Australians had been told to look out for aurora lights that were expected to be visible from Tuesday night.

The rare event prompted Brits to venture outside last night, to try and capture the perfect shot.

In Kirkwall, in Scotland, a primary school teacher shared four photos of the night sky.

Miss H Pinner tweeted that there was a “definite aurora glow” while she was searching for the Northern Lights above her house.

Julie Calderwood Fitzsimmons said from Orkney, off the northern coast of Scotland, that she had been “aurora watching for a few hours now and all we can see is a green glow at the other side of the clouds. Our watch continues!”.

Meanwhile Birmingham resident Daniel Tonks shared some dazzling photos of the Northern Lights from Iceland.

Other spectacular displays could be seen in Canada and Norway.

Dr Beth Keith said she “drove the kids out to the peaks to stare at a very cloudy sky” before heading back to Sheffield, where the only Northern Lights “we’re seeing tonight” were blanked out by the dark, cloud-filled sky.

The UK Met Office said the aurora was “likely to occur over much of Scotland and perhaps extend into northern England and Northern Ireland tonight”.

A spokesman said, “For many in these areas it will be too cloudy but there are some spots in with a chance.”

The agency added, “Aurora is possible through 11th and 12th across much of Scotland, although cloud amounts are increasing, meaning sightings are unlikely for most.”

Tom Kerss, astronomer and author of Northern Lights: The Definitive Guide to Auroras, urged people to still have a look despite the heavy cloud forecast.

“Unfortunately I think cloud cover is going to be a bit of an issue for Scotland but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a go if you have any clear patches at all,” he said.

The forecaster says the solar storm “probably has pockets of enhanced energy in it so it could spike in performance every so often”.

“And that means that it’s quite possible that auroras will actually reach down into the north of England and maybe as far south as somewhere like Belfast or Omagh – not terribly far south,” Mr Kerss said.

“But they might just become visible over the sea from anybody that has a north-facing view across the north of England.”

He added that the chance of disruption to the UK was low due to space weather forecasting and electrical engineering.

“We wouldn’t expect to lose power or have any transformers explode or anything with a storm of this magnitude.

“But it is possible for solar super storms like one that occurred about 150 years ago to cause widespread disruption – we’re just sort of lucky it hasn’t happened yet.”

Sat nav warning

In an update on Monday, the Space Weather Prediction Centre said the moderate geomagnetic storm watch continued for October 12.

“Aurora can often be observed somewhere on Earth from just after sunset or just before sunrise,” its experts added.

“The aurora is not visible during daylight hours, (it) does not need to be directly overhead but can be observed from as much as 1000km away when the aurora is bright and if conditions are right.

“The aurora is an indicator of the current geomagnetic storm conditions and provides situational awareness for a number of technologies.

“(It) directly impacts high frequency radio communication and GPS/GNSS satellite navigation.

“It is closely related to the ground induce currents that impact electric power transition.

“For many people, the aurora is a beautiful night-time phenomenon that is worth travelling to Arctic regions just to observe.

“It is the only way for most people to actually experience space weather.”

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

Originally published as Incredible photos of aurora lights as solar storm strikes Earth

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