The northern lights are visible in most of the US due to solar storms

A severe solar storm is expected to supercharge the Northern Lights on Friday, with auroras as far south as Alabama in the US, according to forecasts.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said Thursday that a series of solar flares and eruptions from the sun could trigger severe geomagnetic storms and “spectacular displays of aurora” on Earth from Friday evening into the weekend.

This is the first severe geomagnetic storm observation Released by the company Since 2005.

“We have a rare event on our hands,” said Shawn Dahl, service coordinator for the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. “We’re a little concerned, we haven’t seen this in a long time.”

Satellite and grid operators have been notified to prepare because strong geomagnetic storms have the power to disrupt communications and power grids on Earth, as well as satellites in space, Dahl said.

Forecasters predict the storm will make landfall around 8pm ET on Friday.

“We’re tight-lipped about the timing of these events because we’re talking about something 93 million miles away,” Dahl said, referring to the distance from the Sun to Earth.

A NASA spacecraft orbiting about 1 million miles from Earth, called the Advanced Mixture Explorer, will help forecasters measure the solar wind and better understand the timing and potential effects.

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, come from charged particles emitted from the sun during solar storms. The colorful scenes are created when these clouds of energetic particles collide with Earth’s magnetic field and interact with atoms and molecules in the planet’s upper atmosphere.

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The northern lights usually light up the night sky at high latitudes, but during periods of intense solar activity, they can be seen farther south than usual.

The Forecast by the Space Weather Forecast Center He said auroras could be seen “as far south as Alabama and northern California” on Friday night.

The agency maintains Aurora Dashboard It provides short term forecasts of northern lights. If conditions are clear, auroras are best viewed from places that are dark and far from city lights.

As night fell over parts of Australia and Europe, the earliest photographs of dramatically colored skies began to emerge.

Smartphones can even capture images of the aurora in southern locations where the human eye can’t see anything unusual, Dahl said.

Several “moderate to strong” solar flares have been detected since Wednesday morning, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center. Solar flares unleash clouds of plasma and charged particles into space called coronal mass ejections. At least five flares and their associated coronal mass ejections appear to have been directed toward Earth, the center said.

“Additional solar flares may cause geomagnetic storm conditions throughout the weekend,” it said in a statement.

When directed toward Earth, this geomagnetic and solar radiation can induce currents in high-voltage transmission lines and cause problems for transformers in the power grid.

In 1989, one of the most damaging geomagnetic storms occurred in Montreal, Canada, when about 6 million people lost power for nine hours. According to NASA. The northeastern United States and parts of Sweden were also affected by the event.

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In 2002, a coronal mass ejection Downed 38 commercial satellites.

The Sun goes through 11-year cycles from minimum to maximum activity. The current cycle started in late 2019 It is predicted to peak in July 2025 with maximum activityAccording to NOAA and NASA forecasts.

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