Aurora could be seen in southern Canada on Halloween
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TORONTO – After a massive solar flare emerged from the sun on Thursday, astronomers say the aurora could dazzle the skies as far south as Toronto over Halloween weekend.
Thursday’s solar flare was accompanied by a large plasma eruption, which astronomers call a “coronal mass ejection,” directed in the direction of our planet.
“(A coronal mass ejection) is essentially a large amount of particle radiation pushed back from the sun at a few thousand kilometers per second. There is this huge wave of particle radiation, mostly protons and electrons, heading towards Earth.” York University astronomer Paul Delaney told CTVNews.ca by phone Friday.
NASA said the eruption peaked at 11:35 a.m. EDT Thursday and classified it as an “X1” eruption. This rocket is at the lower end of Class X rockets, the class of rockets that are the most intense.
Delaney says it takes about 48 hours for the coronal mass ejection to reach Earth. By the time these particles reach our planet, most of them are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field. However, some of these particles can get stuck in the poles.
“These energetic particles interact with particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, atoms and molecules within them, and cause the Northern Lights,” said Ilana MacDonald, astronomer at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.
The Northern Lights are usually only visible around the Arctic. But a strong solar flare could make the auroras visible in southern Canada.
“It’s hard to say because these solar flares are very unpredictable and how they will actually interact with the earth,” MacDonald told CTVNews.ca by phone Friday. “But if it directly touches the earth, then yes, definitely, you would be able to see the Northern Lights of southern Canada.”
Delaney says the aurora “could be visible” as far south as Toronto on Saturday or Sunday. NASA also says the aurora can be seen as low as Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon.
The frequency of strong solar flares has also increased as we move towards what astronomers call a “solar maximum,” which is the culmination of the 11-year solar cycle and has the most activity inside the sun. , said Delaney.
If you’re hoping to catch the Northern Lights this weekend, MacDonald recommends looking for an area with low light pollution.
“The Northern Lights tend to be very diffuse and cloudy. If you’re somewhere like Toronto that has a lot of light pollution, then there’s a lot less chance you’ll be able to see it,” she said.
Strong solar flares also carry the risk of cutting off electricity grids and the Internet. However, Delaney says that’s unlikely with this solar flare, given its strength.
“It’s certainly possible, but unlikely with an X1 flare. An X3, X4, or X5 flare? Of course, if we were in the crosshairs of coronal mass ejections.”
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