Second night of auroras seen amid ‘extreme’ solar storm


WASHINGTON: Auroras lit up skies across swaths of the planet for the second night in a row on Saturday (May 11), after already dazzling people from the United States to Tasmania to the Bahamas the day before.

A powerful solar storm – which could continue into Sunday – has triggered spectacular celestial shows usually confined to the far northern reaches of the planet, hence their nickname of the “northern lights”.

“I have the sensation of living through a historic night in France … It was really charged, with solar particles and emotions,” Eric Lagadec, an astrophysicist at the Observatoire de Cote d’Azur, wrote on social media after the first night.

“Find good spots, away from the lights, with a clear view to the north.”

Late Saturday evening, pictures again started trickling onto social media as people in the United States reported sightings, though not as strong as Friday night’s.

The first of several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) – expulsions of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun – came just after 4pm GMT on Friday, according to the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).

It was later upgraded to an “extreme” geomagnetic storm, the first since the “Halloween Storms” of October 2003 that caused blackouts in Sweden and damaged power infrastructure in South Africa.



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