Space Weather Forecast – Aurorae Tomorrow?

By John Conway | August 2, 2010 4:13 pm


The sun kind of burped yesterday, and sent gigatons (or maybe definitely not hellatons) of material streaming our way – to Earth that is. There is an awesome video of it over at The particles, mainly electrons and protons in the sub-100-eV range, are expected to reach earth tomorrow (Aug. 3) and could give vigorous auroral activity. I am not sure that northern California is northern enough to see it, but who knows? Take pictures, someone!

Once, about six or seven years ago, on an airplane flight from Chicago to California, I was on the right side of the plane and stared for hours at the shimmering curtains of green and red and purple, slowly waving as if in a breeze. It was an amazing sight!

This has been an fairly quiet solar cycle, and we are now heading to a solar max in three years which is on track to be just over half as intense as the last one in 2001, and the lowest in over 100 years. Too bad, just when I got into amateur radio…

  • Non-Believer

    Stupid girl here – Will those of us in Southern Ohio never see a light show like this? It has something to do with poles being magnetic and ions and stuff I really don’t understand. But if we turned on a magnet in Cincinnati, couldn’t it happen? If it was really really big magnet?

    All of that is me being facetious, and what I really want to know is – Is there a way to artificially create the auroral lights?

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  • Kyle

    If I remember correctly, the decreased sun activity is actually better for ham radio.

  • Aaron


    Not stupid! Dunno about Southern Ohio – usually Auroras are only seen close to the poles. To figure out why, imagine the Earth with arcs shooting out of the North pole, and curving down into the South pole – forming a magnetic curtain around the earth with start points at the north and south. Whenever space particles (like the kind shooting out of the sun here) hit this magnetic “curtain” around the Earth, they get shuttled along these arcs north or south, and where they hit the atmosphere they cause it to glow. This curtain isn’t fixed – magnetic disturbances can cause it to bend and shift, which is why sometimes auroras are seen farther north or south.

    About artificially creating an aurora – it is technically possible, but it requires a REALLY big magnet. Rumor has it that Nikola Tesla created an aurora over Colorado while conducting experiments with really huge amounts of electric current (read his wikipedia page, he’s a super interesting guy). The problem is, a magnetic field strong enough to create an aurora over Cincinnati would cause more than just a pretty light show – a field that strong would mess with cell phone towers, airplane navigation systems, and electronics of all kinds. Not a good idea!

    We need to be on the lookout for severe space weather because, although we can’t see it, it can really mess with the satellites and other electronics that we rely on for our day-to-day life.

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  • Otis

    I had the good fortune once to see a solar flare with the naked eye. The sun was setting and just above the horizon. It seemed that part of the surface just peeled off and went a distance from the disk of about 20% of the solar diameter before disappearing. An awesome sight.


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  • jesus

    seems the religious have angered “god” again with all their praying, preaching, judgements and hypocricy

    when will they learn….

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  • John

    Kyle, increased solar activity leads to a stronger high-level ionosphere, off which radio signal can bounce for long distance (“DX”) communications. But indeed, solar flares can disrupt radio transmissions.

  • Marine1985

    I have seen the aurora in Springfield IL in the Early 90’s it wasn’t spectacular since we were so far south but it was like a red waving cloud. I didn’t know what it was till I got home and saw the news of course I was in a light polluted area so it was probably better further out.

  • C. Cheeks

    North, you can see how the rotation reflect light into space which creates
    the imluminated effect. Somtimes hazy, some time red, sometimes other
    various colors.

  • monkeyhumper

    Effington is the proper unit of measurement.

  • Hanna

    In this sort of activity? might be able to see it in ohio. I know here in michigan they are seen every now and then and I will be staking out somewhere tonight to check it out! Good luck!

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  • Paige

    So no repeat of the Carrington event? That’s a relief … although to say something positive about the Carrington event, they saw aurora as far south as Cuba in 1859

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  • SteveB

    It’s not how far you are from the North Pole but how far you are from the Magnetic North Pole which is currently drifting around the islands of northern Canada. So, maybe Ohio, Illinois and definitely U.S. states a bit north of that can see an aurora. I recall a beautiful, clear winter drive heading north in Wisconsin where we watched for hours. Of course winter is better because there is less daylight.


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