Spectacular aurora light show to be seen across Canada on Friday night

A rare and severe solar storm is expected to bring spectacular displays of the northern lights, also known as Northern Lightsacross much of Canada and parts of the United States on Friday night.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States government issued the first geomagnetic storm see at the second highest level of G4 since 2005. Geomagnetic storms have five classifications based on the severity of their impact, from G1 (minor) to G5 (extreme).

“It could cover most of North America,” said astronomy technician Tiffany Fields of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

The evening light show, which typically appears in a milky greenish color, is expected to be visible across most of Canada. There is less chance of visibility in parts of Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It probably won’t be visible in Nova Scotia. In the United States, it could be visible as far south as Alabama and northern California, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US government.

Auroras are caused by energy from the sun and electrically charged particles in the Earth’s magnetic field.

“It’s really hard for our eyes to pick up dim light, but if you have something like a cell phone camera with a one or two second exposure, you’ll be able to pick up some color,” Fields said.

This map shows the areas where the Northern Lights could be seen in parts of Canada and the United States on Friday, May 10, 2024. (NOAA)

After a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections that began on May 8, experts are monitoring the sun and space assets for a geomagnetic storm. Coronal mass ejections are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the solar corona. They cause geomagnetic storms when they head towards Earth.

At least five Earth-directed flares related to coronal mass ejections are expected to arrive at noon on Friday and persist into Sunday, the US weather agency said.

“Geomagnetic storms can affect infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on the Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote. of the United States government in a press release.

It said it notified the operators of these systems “so they can take protective measures.”

According to NOAA, severe geomagnetic storms can cause potential widespread voltage control problems and some protection systems will mistakenly disconnect key assets from the grid.

Additional solar flares could cause geomagnetic storm conditions to persist into the weekend, he added.

In recent days, several strong flares have been observed associated with a large, magnetically complex sunspot cluster that is 16 times the diameter of Earth.

CTV science and technology specialist Dan Riskin said viewing away from bright city lights would be ideal, especially if cloud cover clears across the country during Friday night.

“People should try to get to a rural area where they can look at the sky,” Riskin said. “Look north if you don’t see anything, and that’s where you might see something faint.”

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