Increased solar activity means more aurora borealis over next year

Jan 30, 2012
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Increased solar activity means more aurora borealis over next year

Many people around the world are getting quite a light show at night thanks to the massive solar flares that have been occurring on the sun and shooting radiation towards the Earth's atmosphere. That radiation bouncing off the atmosphere means that we get an impressive display of northern lights, otherwise known as aurora borealis, in the sky over parts of the world that traditionally don't have such a light show. Last week a strong solar storm that pounded the Earth's magnetic field and made for a beautiful night sky in many locations.

At times massive solar storms can cause problems on Earth with TV reception, mobile phone signals, and GPS satellites among other things. The upside is that you can get quite the light show. According to a team of experts at the University of Michigan, these massive solar flares from the sun and the corresponding aurora borealis on Earth may continue for the next year or two on a monthly basis. Scientists expect the peak of the sun's solar flare activity to occur next year, which is part of a normal 11-year cycle for our sun.

The last solar storm peaked on January 24 and was responsible for some disrupted high-frequency radio signals over a two-day period according to scientist Philip Chamberlain, who works on the Solar Observatory Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. We are so far from the sun that each time one of these massive eruptions occurs, we will have at least a day's notice before the radiation hits the Earth's atmosphere.

"The solar cycle is increasing, and so we are going to get more storms," says University of Michigan space weather expert Tamas Gombosi. "Once an eruption happens on the sun, even the biggest ones, we'll have at least a day's warning."

[via USA Today]


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