The Sun sometimes releases concentrated radiation from spots on its surface known as coronal mass ejections (CME’s) or solar flares that spit radiation into space. These flares can erupt from anywhere on the star’s 864,000-mile surface area, and on several occasions have hit Earth. Early this week, people living around the northern hemisphere got to witness one of those rare occasions, as the flare caused light as it entered the atmosphere, creating a natural light display known by scientists as an aurora.
Can you see the Aurora Borealis today?
The Aurora Borealis occurs annually in and around the Arctic Circle, giving it its “Northern Lights” moniker.
The CME has pushed the lights out of their usual orbit and further south, giving people in the UK a chance to catch a glimpse.
Stargazers residing in Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England got their first opportunities on Monday and last night.
The Met Office warned “cloud amounts” increased yesterday, making aurora sightings “unlikely”.
The organisation added that even with clear conditions, there was only a “slight” chance the aurora would light the skies above northern England.
The Sun’s latest ejection was comparatively weak, meaning it only had a slight effect on the planet.
Although this might come as disappointing for many people, it is for the best that the Sun won’t hit the world with its full might.
More significant CMEs have hit Earth before, and with disastrous effects.
The Sun’s ejected matter travels too far to scorch the surface, but the electromagnetic radiation it emits can make the 92 million mile trip without issue.
During the Carrington Event of 1859, a powerful ejection caused a “geomagnetic perturbation” which shorted out parts of the fledgling US telegraph network and ignited fires.
Another, more recent solar flare spat out a geomagnetic storm in March 1989 that caused power failures in Quebec, Canada.