A strong wave of solar flares so early in the year 2012 has made the Earth-bound sentinels witness some spectacular sight of northern lights at night-time these days. The solar flares have stirred up geomagnetic storms in the Earthâ€™s atmosphere, thus causing one of the brightest Northern Lights in the skies these days.
The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, are a result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun. Different gas particles involved in those collisions give these lights fantastic dancing colours.
Currently stargazers in Scandenavia, Scotland, Iceland and even England are being treated to this visual treat. The lights are the direct result of the strongest solar flare since 2005. Thew flare has caused a massive geomagnetic storm in the earthâ€™s atmosphere, thus causing the lights that can go on for quite some days now.
The solar flare is the evidence of the sun waking up after 11 years. Solar flares occur in cycles of 11 years. There is a calm period followed by a burst of activity â€“ this cycle repeats every 11 years.
The strong flare this Sunday hurtled protons towards the earth which can interfere with space satellite electronics. Chester further added, â€œThe buildup on the outside of satellites is like static electricity. Unless you find a way to disperse them, they can fry electronics.”
Regarding Tuesday Chester said, â€œIt’s going to be a clear night. There’s a possibility you could see something.â€
Usually the northern lights are a nighttime treat for stargazers in the Scottish lands, but the strong lights were even visible as a rarity in northeast England and Ireland.
Ken Kennedy, director of the Aurora section of the British Astronomical Association, said the northern lights can light up the sky for some more nights.
Doug Biesecker, a physicist at the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado informed that the auroras that marked the Monday night sky were caused mostly by variations in normal background solar wind, and not the solar storm that erupted Sunday. He further elaborated that a geomagnetic storm that erupted on Tuesday mostly missed the Earth, going a bit north, so no auroras were likely to be predicted in the Tuesday night sky.
The intensity of the Northern lights caused by the exceptionally strong solar flare on Tuesday stunned even experienced stargazers as the night sky in northern Scandinavia lit up.
John Mason, a British astronomer, saw the lights from the deck of the MS Midnatsol, a cruise ship plying the fjord-fringed coast of northern Norway. He exclaimed, â€œIt has been absolutely incredible. I saw my first aurora 40 years ago, and this is one of the best.â€
Other than creating stunning night skies with bright Northern Lights, geomagnetic storms also trigger plenty of unrest in the earth atmosphere and adversely affect many systems humans depend on. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration informs that strong magnetic storms can cause current surges in power lines, interference in the broadcast of radio, TV and telephone signals.