Severe Solar Storm


Solar storms rank on scales much like hurricanes – minor category 1 – extreme category 5. Last night, predictions of geomagnetic energy from uppity sunspot AR2297 delivered a severe category 4 wallop to expectant sky watchers. A remarkable 8 on the KP index(scale measuring magnetic strength), this storm rates as one of the most powerful in a decade.

I’ve spent 35 years in Vancouver, only once before have Auroras graced my fair city. Storms of this magnitude often disrupt GPS, cell phones and power grids – despite an unexpected magnitude, so far this storm chooses to spare disruption in favour of pizazz.

Indications point to weakening presence, yet science has no idea when it will fizzle. NOAA gives “a strong possibility” auroras may be viewed early this morning as far south as Tennessee and Oklahoma.

If this ponder finds you awake under clear skies – find a dark corner and gaze at the sky. Aurora just might find you.

Photographer Matt Melnyk took this photo in the Sage Hill area of Calgary, Alberta, on March 17, 2015.

Image – Matt Melnyk, Calgary Alberta

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Image taken by Ellen Monteith at 2:30 am March 16, Barriere B.C.

Vancouver-Aurora---17-March

I may lose my mind – this image taken last night in Vancouver

Northern lights grace the sky on St. Patrick's Day

Image – Notanee Bourassa, Regina Saskatchewan

http://www.newslocker.com/en-ca/region/ajax/northern-lights-kick-off-st-patricks-day-festivities/

Massive AR 1785


Massive sunspot AR 1785 – eleven times the diameter of earth – now faces our planet with potential for some nasty flares. Space weather forecasters at NOAA predict a 55% chance of M-class and 10% X-class for today.

Luckily earth has the magnetosphere which deflects solar wind and concentrates solar energy at the magnetic pole. Scientists have known for a long time the magnetosphere wasn’t perfect; just as the ozone layer develops “holes”, our magnetic shield is prone to “cracks”. Anyone lucky enough to see an aurora has witnessed the power of electrically charged solar winds.

In 1961 scientist Jim Dungey theorized these cracks occurred when the solar energy arrived packing a magnetic field that travelled in the opposite direction from our magnetic field. We now know these cracks can remain open for hours, allowing billions of electrically charged particles to light up the sky. Severe solar storms can wipe out satellites, communication, and power.

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2003/03dec_magneticcracks/

AR 1785 will most likely blast tons of plasma into space before fading away. Geomagnetic storms will rage – ¬†airplanes might change course to avoid radiation, auroras will dazzle, and few will be the wiser. I don’t lose sleep over space weather, I just wish more people understood the implications of a direct hit through an unlucky crack that could plunge us into darkness for months.

Photo by Taichi Nakamura of Dunedin New Zealand – southern hemisphere auroras when earth passed through a region of southward magnetic field, opening a crack in the magnetosphere on July 6.