Strong solar winds and a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) which is like a huge sun sneeze, will be sending radiation our way that could arrive by Friday night. This G2-class geomagnetic storm took place in the early hours of April 10th.
Some areas as far South as the border between Canada and the US have seen brilliant Northern lights. Even Colorado has been able to see some of this particular light show.
Experts are keeping a close eye on this solar activity as another CME could flare up later tonight.
The numbers on the sun graphic correspond to where these solar "sneezes" or flares are erupting.
So why do these solar winds cause the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights?
The following is courtesy of Earthsky.com
Our sun is 93 million miles away. But its effects extend far beyond
its visible surface. Great storms on the sun send gusts of charged
solar particles hurtling across space.
If Earth is in the path of the
particle stream, our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere react.
When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up.
What does it mean for an atom to be excited?
Atoms consist of a central nucleus and a surrounding cloud of electrons
encircling the nucleus in an orbit. When charged particles from the
sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, electrons move to higher-energy
orbits, further away from the nucleus. Then when an electron moves back
to a lower-energy orbit, it releases a particle of light or photon.
What happens in an aurora is similar to what happens in the neon lights we see on many business signs. Electricity is used to excite
the atoms in the neon gas within the glass tubes of a neon sign.
That’s why these signs give off their brilliant colors. The aurora works
on the same principle – but at a far more vast scale.
Thank goodness our planet has a shield to protect us from these deadly radiation or solar flares. The magnetosphere pushes the excited atoms towards the poles.
This is why lights typically are seen in the far north – the nations bordering
the Arctic Ocean – Canada and Alaska, Scandinavian countries, Iceland,
Greenland and Russia.
But strong displays of the lights can extend down
into more southerly latitudes in the United States.
And of course, the
lights have a counterpart at Earth’s south polar regions.
In very strong storms, we could see power outages, wireless phone drop outs, and bad satellite transmissions.
Right now the best and brightest Auroras are near the Arctic Circle. Some of these Auroras can be beautiful as in this display from 2014.