Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Northern Lights Seen in the South

A solar outburst sparked surprising displays of the northern lights as far south as Arkansas, Mississippi and North Carolina tonight, marking one of the farthest-reaching auroral shows in years.

word spread about the geomagnetic storm, photos streamed onto the Web
from the usual places, such as Norway, Sweden and Iceland, but also
from locales that are typically too far south to see the northern
lights: Oklahoma ... Kansas ... Kentucky ... Tennessee ... Virginia.

Arkansas photographer Brian Emfinger was alerted to the
northern lights by SpaceWeather.com's aurora alert. "I ran out and put
my camera out and immediately saw reddish aurora," he wrote. "I ran out
into the field, and within a few minutes the aurora went crazy!"

The cause of the show was a coronal mass ejection from the sun
that hit Earth's magnetosphere at about 2 p.m. ET, SpaceWeather.com

The impact caused a strong compression in the magnetic
field, allowing electrically charged particles from the solar wind to
penetrate down to geosynchronous orbit (22,000 miles or 35,000
kilometers in altitude). That means Earth-orbiting satellites could
have been exposed to the solar storm, analysts said.

activity is on the upswing toward an expected peak of the sun's 11-year
cycle in 2013, and the past few months have been marked by strong
auroral activity. Here's a picture of an aurora as seen from the
International Space Station on Sept. 29 as it flew over the midwestern
United States.

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