A second of two major solar storms has hit the Earth, creating ideal conditions for colourful night skies over polar regions, but also creating the risk of disruption to communications and power networks.
Tasmania may be one place to enjoy the view, according to the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook page.
The Space Prediction Centre of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) said the storm had “entered its main phase and it has strengthened to the expected G3 (strong) level,” in a statement posted on its website at 9.35 am,(AEST).
An Aurora Borealis in all its glory.
An Aurora Borealis in all its glory. Photo: NASA file pic.
“Solar wind conditions suggest that this activity will continue for many hours and aurora watchers should be in for a good treat,” the centre said, adding t would issue warnings if more “intense storming” occurs.
The second of two solar storms, in the form of a coronal mass ejection (CME) from a solar flare, hit Earth on Friday (US time) following the first burst a day earlier.
“The second of the expected coronal mass ejections (CMEs) has arrived, and arrived in good agreement with the predicted arrival times,” according to NOAA. “As expected, an initial look shows this CME is stronger than the first.”
Aurora Borealis – or ‘Northern LIghts’,
Aurora Borealis – or ‘Northern LIghts’, Photo: NASA
Scientists said the storms could cause some fluctuations in Earth’s power grid and slight disturbances in satellites and radio transmissions later on Friday and on Saturday (US time).
Communications, transportation and power companies are prepared for the impacts from this level of storm, according to Bill Murtagh, space weather forecaster for the centre. “They have taken the actions to mitigate problems,” he said.
Major disruptions are not expected, even though the second flare was classified as an “X-class” flare, which is at the high end of the solar flare scale.
Solar X-ray image of the flare.
Solar X-ray image of the flare. Photo: NOAA
Intense flares such as the one that erupted Wednesday are often associated with CMEs. A coronal mass ejection contains billions of tons of energetic hydrogen and helium ions as well as magnetic fields ejected from the sun’s surface.
A side effect of the solar storm is an expansion of the photogenic aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, across Canada and the northern US and other far north regions – as well as though in the far south.