Northern Lights may return to the UK in weeks

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By Creative Media News

  • Solar storm sparks UK’s stunning Northern Lights display
  • More aurora sightings likely as sun’s activity peaks
  • Solar flares cause disruptions, satellites, and GPS systems affected

A tremendous solar storm generated last weekend’s phenomenal spectacle. As the sun enters its most active phase of the year, the United Kingdom may witness additional Northern Lights displays in the coming weeks.

We may once more be greeted with the Northern Lights as early as the following month.

Last weekend, the Northern Lights illuminated the skies above the United Kingdom, transforming them into pink and green in awe-inspiring displays for skygazers.

A series of solar flares merged to form a tremendous explosion of solar plasma, prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States to issue its first severe solar storm warning since 2005. This event captivated the public.

On the Earth-facing side of the sun, there was a tremendous sunspot, approximately 15 times the size of the Earth,” said Met Office space weather expert Krista Hammond.

It was emitting coronal mass ejections and solar flares, which are tremendous eruptions of charged particles.

Due to the convergence of several eruptions, the resultant geomagnetic storm upon their arrival on Earth was considerably more intense than any eruptions would have generated independently.

Ms. Hammond stated that the last time a geomagnetic disturbance of this magnitude occurred was in 2003.

The sun is in its most active phase of an eleven-year cycle, so we may witness the Northern Lights once more within the coming weeks.

Ms. Hammond stated that the sunspot region, responsible for all solar flares and coronal mass ejections, has been rotated to the opposite side of the sun that is not facing the Earth.

However, within a few weeks, that region will reorientate to face the Earth again.

The phenomenon known as the aurora borealis transpires when solar particles, which are electrically charged, traverse through space and make contact with the Earth’s atmosphere.

While the majority of these particles are deflected away, a subset is captured by our magnetic field and accelerates in the direction of the north and south poles.

This explains why lights are typically observed near magnetic poles. On occasion, solar cyclones can attain sufficient intensity to be visible from greater distances away from the polar regions.

The “solar minimum” occurs during the sun’s least active phase of its 11-year cycle; approximately one of these ejections is observed weekly. On average, two to three are monitored daily during the “solar maximum” phase of the present cycle.

Multiple conditions must be met to organize a massive, visible exhibition like the one that occurred last weekend.

“Time management is vital.” To begin with, an active planet generating coronal mass ejections is required.

“Secondly, the target of these solar eruption bursts must be the Earth.” Then, if the solar activity is intense enough, its collision with our magnetic field will generate a geomagnetic storm.

We favor a G4 or G5 geomagnetic storm because the intensity of geomagnetic activity increases the visibility of the Northern Lights across the entire United Kingdom. It ultimately boils down to scheduling, as the busiest hours should be at night.

Additionally, the weather significantly influences the aurora’s visibility, as Kirsty McCabe notes that clear skies are crucial.

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It takes the sun approximately 27 days to complete one revolution around its axis; therefore, another display from the same sun region may occur at the start of June.

It is difficult to provide extensive notice of potential sightings; therefore, monitoring aurora watch websites and apps is prudent, particularly since 2024 has been designated the Year of the Aurora, according to Ms. McCabe.

Solar activity does indeed give rise to complications on Earth, specifically in systems that depend on satellites.

Elon Musk claimed on X that during last week’s solar storm, his Starlink satellites, which provide internet connections in remote locations, were “under a lot of pressure.”

Customer advisories from tractor manufacturer John Deere stated that the cyclone had “extremely compromised” its GPS systems.

Additionally, the provider stated that certain segments of New Zealand’s national electricity grid were deactivated to “prevent damage to equipment.

Last weekend’s display, according to Ms. Hammond, was “quite an unusual circumstance.”

Nevertheless, numerous individuals desiring to glimpse the awe-inspiring Northern Lights may still have a chance.

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