Monique Keiran: Rare light show on south coast the result of a solar storm - Times Colonist
Oct 24, 2021 1 min, 57 secs

That Thanksgiving’s event reached our latitude is thanks to a solar storm sweeping down on Earth’s magnetic field.

9, specialists with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory reported a solar flare erupting from a sunspot on the Sun’s surface.

Accompanying the flare was a level 2 coronal mass ejection.

The two phenomena created a one-two punch of high-velocity charged particles blasted directly towards Earth.

11 and 12, the billions of tonnes of solar particles collided with gases in the Earth’s ionosphere, an electrically charged layer of our upper atmosphere, releasing energy visible as light.

It is made of plasma, a gas-like state of matter where electrons and ions have separated, creating a super-hot mix of charged particles.

When charged particles move, they create magnetic fields.

These fields, in turn, affect how the particles move.

The Sun’s plasma flows generate many complicated magnetic fields that twist and turn beneath, within, on and above the Sun’s surface.

When the tangled fields erupt, solar flares blast out.

Solar flares are the solar system’s largest explosive events.

Coronal mass ejections happen when the Sun’s outer atmosphere — the corona — becomes confined within closed, ­looping magnetic fields within the corona.

The ­confined solar atmosphere can suddenly belch bubbles of gas and magnetic fields.

But we’re talking about the Sun, the star that drives our solar system, accounts for more than 99.8 per cent of the solar system’s mass, and — were it hollow and not an incandescent sphere of swirling, 15 million C, highly pressurized plasma — would easily fit more than 1.3 million Earths inside.

Coronal mass ejections — or ejections of mass (i.e., “stuff”) from the Sun’s corona — can contain billions of tonnes of matter, hurled out from the Sun’s atmosphere in a spectacular explosion at speeds of about five million km/h.

All that highly charged solar material streams into space, smacking into everything in its path.

When coronal mass ejections sweep across Earth’s own upper atmosphere, they can ramp up the northern lights and make them visible over much wider areas.

The intensity of the solar storm deforms our own magnetosphere, ­compressing it more than usual on the sunward side and causing it to stream out more flatly away from the sun.

When solar particles hit oxygen molecules, red, yellow or green light results — with an emphasis on green.


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