Science

A stream of solar wind brings stunning Northern Lights to the skies of North America

The activity on the Sun last week resulted in stunning views for northern hemisphere observers over the weekend.

According to NOAA, a coronal mass ejection (CME) released by the Sun on September 2 resulted in a G2 (moderate) geomagnetic storm upon arrival on Earth on Sunday and spreading on Monday (September 5). (will open in a new tab)Center for space weather forecasting.

Sunday’s aurora sightings ranged from New Hampshire to Michigan and Washington DC in the US, highlighted by naked-eye poles over Yellowstone National Park, according to Spaceweather.com. (will open in a new tab)and observers report stunning and colorful punctuations of their palate.

These displays are the latest in a string of recent events triggered by intense activity on the Sun. Our star is going through its 11-year solar cycle, which is predicted to bring sunspot activity to a peak during a solar maximum expected in 2025.

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In addition to the beautiful displays of the aurora, geomagnetic storms can also cause radio blackouts and, in extreme cases, such as the 1859 Carrington event, can wreak havoc on technology on Earth. Power grids, as well as satellites in orbit, are particularly vulnerable to severe space weather. This past February, SpaceX lost a batch of 40 brand new Starlink satellites after launching into a relatively mild solar storm. Other operators have reported problems maintaining low orbit satellite orbits due to increased solar activity.

On Sunday, however, NOAA reported no radio outages, which could range from minor to extreme.

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Year Aug. 30 CME hit the European Solar Orbiter a few days before its flyby of Venus on September 4, but the spacecraft was unharmed.

According to the UK Met Office, there are currently five sunspot regions on the visible disk of the Sun, with sunspot AR3089 being the largest and most complex.

The Met Office predicts low solar activity over the next few days, with a few moderate flares from AR3089 likely.

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