Jun 03, 2024

Northern lights appear across US as solar storms bombard Earth

by: Eric Henrikson

Posted: Jul 10, 2023 / 09:57 AM CDT

Updated: Jul 10, 2023 / 04:19 PM CDT

SPACE (KXAN) — Skies across the United States will light up later this week. Two solar storms are expected to occur on Thursday night, meaning the Northern Lights could be visible in 17 states.

This year is an exceptionally active year for our sun. Every 11 years, the sun reaches a point of peak activity, where storms are more likely. This year is that peak.

The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are a colorful glowing light display that occur in the upper atmosphere.

These events happen when a solar wind, charged particles released when a storm occurs on the sun, strike the Earth’s magnetosphere.

Typically, the Northern Lights occur in upper latitudes, like Canada or Iceland. However, this year’s active sun is causing them further south.

The Associated Press reports that The Geophysics Institute of Alaska expects this Thursday’s storms to be exceptionally active, causing Northern Lights to occur in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Maine and Maryland.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center forecasts that the storms will peak on Thursday and continue into Friday morning.

This year is a big one for our sun. NASA has named it “The Heliophysics Big Year” because of the amount of activity.

Every 11 years, the south and north poles of the sun flip over. During the middle of this, the sun reaches what’s called the Solar Maximum. During this time, sun spots and solar storms reach their peak, and 2023 happens to be on the Solar Maximum.

On top of this, the next 12 months have two eclipses passing over the US and especially Texas. The first, an annular eclipse, will occur on October 14th and the second, a Total Eclipse, on April 8th of 2024.

During an annular eclipse, the moon moves between the Earth and the sun, but doesn’t completely blot out the sun. A ring of fire will appear around the eclipse. You must use special glasses to look at the star.

During a total eclipse, the moon will completely blot out the sun. People in the totality of the eclipse where it is darkest will be able to look at the sun without glasses.

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