A solar flare erupted on the surface of the sun Friday night, and that energy is now heading toward Earth.
Now, don’t get too concerned about this- solar eruptions are fairly common. In fact, the results of solar flares can sometimes create those captivating colorful displays in the night sky known as the aurora (also known as the “northern lights”). More on that in a moment, but first…what is a solar flare?
Solar flares are “explosions” on the surface of the sun. That explosion violently releases a cloud of solar plasma, energetic particles, gas, and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections (CME). NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is constantly monitoring for solar flares, and caught the most recent one in eye-capturing images. (below). The “explosion” seen in the image below is the CME.
— NWS (@NWS) July 14, 2017
When coronal mass ejections are directed toward Earth, that energy will travel through space, and sometimes can interact with our atmosphere or nearby satellites. That flux of energetic particles can cause a variety of impacts to us here on Earth including disruptions with signal transmission from GPS satellites, power grids, and some forms of communication. As mentioned earlier, that influx of energetic particles interacting with Earth outer atmosphere (specifically the magnetosphere) can create beautiful aurora displays over the high latitudes of Earth, giving people spectacular dancing color displays in the night sky.
The energy from this most recent solar flare is expected to reach Earth by Sunday evening. That means if you live at a higher latitude, keep an eye to the night sky for possible aurora views. The Space Weather Prediction Center predicts that areas as far south as the lower great lakes, as well as most of the northern tier of the US. In the image below, NOAA expects the aurora to be most likely visible between the green and yellow line.
Keep watching WeatherNation, and we’ll let you know where skies will be clear so you can get outside to hopefully catch this amazing visual phenomenon.
If you’d like to learn more about solar storms and the impacts, head over to NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center site.
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