24/7 Space News
Dazzling auroras fade from skies as sunspot turns away
Dazzling auroras fade from skies as sunspot turns away
By Issam AHMED with AFP bureaus around the world
Washington (AFP) May 13, 2024

The spectacular auroras that danced across the sky in many parts of the world over the weekend are fading, scientists said Monday, as the massive sunspot that caused them turns its ferocious gaze away from Earth.

Since Friday, the most powerful solar storm to strike our planet in more than two decades has lit up night skies with dazzling auroras in the United States, Tasmania, the Bahamas and other places far from the extreme latitudes where they are normally seen.

But Eric Lagadec, an astrophysicist at France's Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, told AFP that the "most spectacular" period of this rare event has come to an end.

The first of several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) -- expulsions of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun -- came just after 1600 GMT Friday, according to the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The event was later upgraded to an "extreme" geomagnetic storm -- the first since the "Halloween Storms" of October 2003 that caused blackouts in Sweden and damaged power infrastructure in South Africa.

Excitement over the phenomenon -- and otherworldly photos of pink, green and purple night skies -- broke out across the world, from southern Europe to Australia's island state of Tasmania.

The storm had been forecast to intensify again until 0600 GMT Monday, the NOAA said, adding that auroras could be viewable as far south as New York.

But thousands of people who came out on Sunday night in the hope of seeing the aurora borealis over the Joshua Tree National Park in California instead only saw the glittering stars of the Milky Way.

- 'One fabulous night' -

Lagadec said that while there were further solar outbursts on Sunday, it is unlikely that more auroras will be visible to the naked eye in lower latitudes such as in France.

"Only the most experienced photographers will be able to capture them" in such areas, he said.

The geomagnetic storm was caused when multiple CMEs emanated from a massive sunspot cluster 17 times wider than Earth arrived at our planet at around the same time.

However the sunspot has now moved to "the edge of the Sun, (so) we do not expect the next coronal mass ejections to head in Earth's direction," Lagadec said.

This means the solar storm is expected to "progressively decrease in the coming days," said Quentin Verspieren, the European Space Agency's space safety programme coordinator.

Pointing out that hopeful aurora spotters were "mostly disappointed" on Sunday night, Verspieren told AFP it was unlikely that the celestial spectacle would be repeated on Monday or Tuesday.

"There was one fabulous night, but it has passed," he said.

"However, the behaviour of the Sun is really hard to predict."

And we are only just entering a period of increased solar activity that occurs every 11 years when the Sun's magnetic pole flips, which means there could be further extreme events in the next year or two, he added.

When charged particles from solar winds are captured by Earth's magnetic field, they accelerate towards the planet's magnetic poles, which is why auroras are normally seen there.

But during periods of heightened solar activity, the effects extend farther toward the equator.

- Satellites weathered storm -

Unlike during 2003's solar storms, no major disruptions to power or communications networks appear to have been reported this time around.

Elon Musk's satellite internet operator Starlink said on X that its thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit had "weathered the geomagnetic storm and remain healthy".

Unlike solar flares, which travel at the speed of light and reach Earth in around eight minutes, CMEs travel at a more sedate pace, with officials putting the current average at 800 kilometers (500 miles) per second.

Fluctuating magnetic fields associated with geomagnetic storms induce currents in long wires, including power lines, which can lead to blackouts. Long pipelines can also become electrified.

Spacecraft are at risk from high doses of radiation, although the atmosphere prevents this from reaching Earth.

NASA can ask astronauts on the International Space Station to move to better-shielded places within the outpost.



Related Links
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Where space weather originates
Paris, France (SPX) May 09, 2024
The Virtual Space Weather Modelling Centre, through a collaborative effort, has developed a simulation that visualizes the initiation of space weather. The model demonstrates the emergence of a flux rope from the Sun's magnetic field, which may carry millions of tons of plasma into space during a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). This visualization uses the COCONUT magnetohydrodynamic model created by the team at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, recently highlighted in the journal Astronomy and Astrophy ... read more

NASA names David Salvagnini as chief artificial intelligence officer

Voyager Space to Develop New Airlock Concept for Mars Transit

ISS National Lab offers up to $750,000 for technology development in space

New Shepard's NS-25 crewed mission set for May 19 liftoff

Boeing Starliner launch delayed to Tuesday due to helium leak

SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites from Florida

First crewed flight of Boeing spacecraft delayed again

Maritime Launch Secures Conditional $12.9M Term Sheet from Canadian Government

Tracing organic matter origins in Martian sediments

NASA, ESA will search for 'signs of life' on Mars

Mars agriculture simulations show promise and challenges

Manganese discovery on Mars suggests ancient Earth-like conditions

China sends experimental satellite into orbit with Long March 4C rocket

International Support for China's Chang'e-6 Lunar Mission

Shenzhou XVII astronauts safely back from Tiangong space station

Shenzhou XVIII crew takes command at Tiangong space station

Future spacecraft control centre unveiled by ESA

Sidus Space activates LizzieSat-1 payload after commissioning

Iridium-Connected Drones Receive FAA BVLOS Waiver

ATT and AST SpaceMobile Sign Agreement for Satellite Broadband Network

Huge Survey vs. Tiny Space Junk

Transforming iron-based alloys into advanced thermoelectric materials with brief heat treatment

Mu Space Secures Key Thai Government Approvals to Enhance Space Tech and Smart Electronics

Where is the Best Place to Buy Used Books?

Newly discovered Earth-sized planet may lack an atmosphere

Astronomers spot a giant planet that is as light as cotton candy

A perfect tidal storm: HD 104067 planetary architecture creating an incandescent world

Earth-sized planet discovered orbiting ultra-cool red dwarf star

NASA's Juno captures detailed images of Europa's surface

UAF scientist clarifies Jupiter's magnetospheric dynamics with new data

Webb telescope details weather patterns on distant exoplanet

Juno mission reveals volcanic landscapes on Io

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.