A moderately strong solar storm recently hit Earth, creating a spectacular light show that was visible from New York. This event took place when the earth was entering a period of increased solar activity. On October 11th, a massive solar flare was sighted on the Earth-facing side of the sun, which reached the planet on Monday. Solar activity increases and decreases every 11 years.
Solar storms of this magnitude, category G2, can affect satellites in orbit and also disrupt power grids. Usually solar storms are not strong enough to be visible from areas other than the high altitude areas around the North or South Pole. But that storm was visible from New York, Wisconsin and Washington state, Space.com reported.
On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned that the solar storm could lead to orientation irregularities in satellites and fluctuations in power grids. It then extended the warning to Tuesday but reduced the solar storm’s potential impact on fluctuations in weak power grids.
People in South Dakota, USA, including photographer Randy Halverson, were able to capture incredible views of the aurora, a colorful sky light show caused by the solar storm, on Monday. These lights are created when particles from the sun interact with gases in our atmosphere.
Aurora from Central SD last night. pic.twitter.com/oLjeANCTkr
– Randy Halverson ☄ (@dakotalapse) October 12, 2021
Aurora borealis are often seen in areas near the North or South Poles.
Solar storms are common space weather events due to the regular occurrence of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the solar atmosphere. CMEs are made up of electrically charged plasma and this plasma travels outward and can hit the Earth’s magnetic shield. When this plasma hits the magnetic shield at astronomical speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour, the charged particles move towards the poles and release energy as colored light.
The largest solar storm ever recorded struck Earth in 1859. The Carrington event produced an aurora that was visible even in areas much closer to the equator.