Aurora Borealis Tonight?

April 13th, 2013 at 9:21 pm by under General Talk, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

At 6:45 EDT, a solar impulse was detected in the Earth’s atmosphere according to the Canadian Space Agency. This is a result of particles from the sun being hurled through space following a Coronal Mass Ejection.  A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is a burst of plasma from the sun which, when hitting the Earth, can interfere with power transmissions, satellites, GPS, radios and other electronic devices.  While that can be troublesome, a CME hitting the Earth can be quite beautiful. 

This all started on Thursday when a Coronal Mass Ejection was seen leaving the Sun.

Courtesy NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory:  Coronal Mass Ejection Leaving the Sun early Thursday morning.

Courtesy NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory: Coronal Mass Ejection Leaving the Sun early Thursday morning.

 

 

This happens a lot, but this CME was directed toward Earth and reached us earlier this evening.  When these particles hit our communication satellites, outages can occur. Sometimes, power distribution to our houses can be interrupted, but that is rare.

Courtesy NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory:  CME from the Sun.

Courtesy NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory: CME from the Sun.

 

Again, while the problems these solar ejections can cause are many, the beauty can be unreal!  Streams of color can dance through the night sky.  While usually green, reds and blues have been seen.  The problem here in Southern New England tonight is the clouds. 

 

Courtesy U.S. Airforce:  The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake in Alaska

Courtesy U.S. Airforce: The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake in Alaska

 

While it can be difficult to see the Aurora anyway because of our position on the Earth (further North is better), we can still see them if all the conditions are right.  This particular flare of the sun is considered to be a mid-level M-class flare.  It’s 10 times weaker than an X-class flare, but also the strongest so far in 2013.   Even if we can’t see the Aurora tonight, we will have many more chances.  The sun is coming close to its Solar Maximum.  That is the part of the sun’s 11-year cycle when it is the most active.  Numerous sun-spots have cited on the sun, an indication of its activity.  Experts say that the peak to this solar cycle is later this year.

You can follow all of my astronomy and weather updates on Twitter: @tjdelsanto

-T.J. Del Santo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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