Light show from solar stormGRAND FORKS — The strongest solar storm in six years set off northern lights across much of Europe on Tuesday and could make viewing the aurora borealis dramatic in this region tonight.
GRAND FORKS — The strongest solar storm in six years set off northern lights across much of Europe on Tuesday and could make viewing the aurora borealis dramatic in this region tonight.
Solar flares or storms bring awesome sights, but they can also bring trouble.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, problems can include current surges in power lines, and interference in the broadcast of radio, TV and telephone signals. No such problems were reported Tuesday.
Concerned about disruption to aircraft communications, Delta Air Lines Inc. said Tuesday that it was rerouting some transpolar flights between Asia and the U.S. to avoid the full impact of the solar storm, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Atlanta-based carrier, which flies into Grand Forks, said some flights to Detroit from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul took a more southerly route on overnight flights, though a spokesman said planes flew faster to keep schedules intact. Tuesday departures from the U.S. were expected to follow similar routes.
Even before particles from the solar storm reached Earth on Tuesday, the aurora borealis was dancing across the sky as far south as Ireland and England, where people rarely get a chance to catch the stunning light show, The Associated Press reported.
The eerie and dramatic northern lights are created when energetic particles from the sun excite oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere causing them to emit light. There are more energetic particles during a solar flare.
Even experienced stargazers were stunned by the intensity of the aurora borealis that swept across the night sky in northern Europe after the biggest solar flare in six years.
“It has been absolutely incredible,” British astronomer John Mason cried from the deck of the MS Midnatsol, a cruise ship plying the fjord-fringed coast of northern Norway. “I saw my first aurora 40 years ago, and this is one of the best,” Mason told the AP, his voice nearly drowning in the cheers of awe-struck fellow
Doug Biesecker of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., told the AP it appears Tuesday’s storm seemed mostly to miss the Earth, so the aurora borealis likely wouldn’t be visible very far south.
He said the northern lights being viewed in the United Kingdom likely were part of normal solar activity and not from the solar storm.