Mar 25, 2023
Solar Storm That Caused Dazzling Auroral Display Could Linger
(Bloomberg) -- A brilliant display of northern lights touched off by a massive geomagnetic storm was visible to a wide swath of the world Friday, and the aurora could linger through Saturday in many places if the weather is clear.
Red, purple and green streamers of the aurora borealis dazzled viewers in North America on Friday and were seen much farther south than normal, with people in California, Arizona and Texas reporting they could see it, according to AccuWeather, Inc. Typically, the spectacular display is only visible in northern locales like Alaska, North Dakota, Canada and Iceland.
The display was touched off by a severe geomagnetic storm that peaked about 12:04 a.m. Friday, according to the US Space Weather Prediction Center, and if the weather is clear, more could be in store on Saturday.
A coronal mass ejection, an explosion of magnetic fields and plasma from the sun’s atmosphere, hit Earth early Friday with more force than initially forecast. These events can disrupt Earth’s magnetic field causing auroral displays, as well as disrupting satellites, communication and electric grids.
Read more: A Swedish Resort Lets You See the Northern Lights From Your Room
The US Space Weather Prediction Center had originally expected a G2 level storm Friday on its five-step scale, the event measured in at G4, one of the strongest triggered on Earth since 2017.
In addition to the dazzling auroral displays, a G4 storm can cause headaches for power grid operators and force spacecraft to adjust their orbits. The storm can also degrade satellite navigation, radio broadcasts and even cause pipelines to build up an electric charge. In early 2022, Elon Musk’s SpaceX lost 40 Starlink satellites because of a solar storm.
The impacts from the coronal mass ejection have trailed off, but energy coming from what scientists call a “coronal hole” will continue at least through Saturday and that could mean the aurora could be seen by viewers across Europe, Asia and North America through Sunday, the UK Met Office said on its website.
There are currently eight sunspot clusters visible on the side of the sun facing Earth, however another coronal mass ejection blasting toward us isn’t forecast, the UK Met Office said.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.