So, there’s good news and bad news: The good news is, some areas of the US caught a rare glimpse of the northern lights this week. The bad news is, those auroral displays were a side effect of holes in the sun.
“For much of the last week, the sun featured three substantial coronal holes,” according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
A common occurrence, these so-called “holes”—areas of open magnetic field from which high-speed solar wind rushes into space—appear as dark areas under extreme ultraviolet light.
“Solar wind interacting with Earth’s magnetosphere can trigger aurora, most commonly near the poles,” NASA explained.
Glowing atmospheric phenomena, amplified by the solar winds, have reportedly been spotted as far south as the Dakotas.
The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) on Tuesday issued a G1 minor geomagnetic storm watch, mapping the most likely areas for auroral views.
A similar event last month led to nationwide panic when misguided news coverage tipped potential effects like headaches, dizziness, and sleep disturbances.
If anything, the coronal holes might mess with Earth’s power grid systems, spacecraft, and satellite operations. But there is nothing to worry about.
Disturbances are rated from least (G1) to most (G5) extreme. G1 storms, like the one transpiring now, occur about 2,000 times every 11 years—or, once every two days.
The largest recorded geomagnetic storm, referred to as the Carrington Event, struck in September 1859. Effects were so strong that, in some cases, telegraph wires delivered shocks to operators and ignited fires.
Aurorae, meanwhile, were seen as far south as Hawaii, Mexico, Cuba, and Italy.
Most recently, a series of storms in autumn 2003 forced the forced the Federal Aviation Administration offline for 30 hours, severely damaged the Japanese ADEOS-2 satellite, and resulted in an extreme radio blackout.
But like I said: Nothing to worry about.
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