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Northern Lights Visible in Many Parts of the U.S. This Week Due to Rare “Cannibal” Solar Event

It could also disrupt electric power grids, as well as GPS, radio and satellite networks.



Cannibal Northern Lights

Millions of Americans have a chance to see the Northern Lights this week due to strong geomagnetic storms caused by a “cannibal” solar event heading straight for Earth.

A series of several solar explosions from the Sun on Sunday (August 14) are currently on their way to Earth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). One of those bursts—called a coronal mass ejection, or CME—is expected to collide and consume another, creating a rare so-called “cannibal” CME event.

These eruptions have the potential to trigger strong geomagnetic storms as early as Thursday (August 18) night.

The breathtaking display of color caused by charged particles at the Earth’s poles—commonly known as the “Northern Lights” or aurora borealis—are expected to reach much further south than usual.

This indicates that if the weather cooperates and it isn’t too cloudy, those living as far south as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Iowa, and Oregon would be able to view the stunning Northern Lights show this week, starting Thursday night.

However, these geomagnetic storms do have the potential to trigger power voltage issues here on Earth, NOAA warned.

In fact, there is strong potential for some disruption to the functioning of electric power grids, as well as GPS, radio and satellite networks, according to the 6ABC AccuWeather Team.

Earth was also blasted by the Sun on Wednesday (August 17) with a recurrent coronal hole high speed stream.

These solar winds triggered a minor geomagnetic storm. Such conditions are projected to escalate into a stronger G3 geomagnetic storm once the cannibal CME event arrives.

The activity on the sun is highly unpredictable, and sometimes the resulting disruptions are so powerful that they yank the Earth’s magnetic field away from the planet.

However, like a rubber band when it is released, the magnetic field snaps back, and the force of that recoil causes enormous ripples roughly 80,000 miles above the ground that are known as Alfvén waves.

Because of the Earth’s magnetic pull, such waves accelerate the closer they get to the surface of the planet.

Sometimes electrons will hitch a ride on these extremely fast Alfvén waves, allowing them to accelerate to speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour.

When the electrons enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere, where it is relatively thin, they collide with nitrogen and oxygen molecules, which sends them into an excited state. After some time, the excited electrons return to their normal state and begin to emit light, which is what humans perceive to be the Northern Lights.

How to See the Northern Lights

  • Find a place where there is not a lot of light pollution and go there.
  • If you can, move to a location that is located at a higher altitude.
  • Check the weather forecast to see if there are any indications of clouds or precipitation that can impede your view.
  • Keep an eye on the sky; even though their name includes the word “northern,” they could come from anywhere.

According to NOAA, there are at least four coronal mass ejections that could have a direct impact on Earth this week.

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