Recently a moderately strong solar storm struck Earth and created a spectacular light show that was visible from New York. This event occurred when the Earth entered a period of solar activity. On October 11, a massive solar flare was observed on the Earth-facing side of the Sun and reached the planet on Monday. Solar activity increases and decreases every 11 years.
Solar storms of this magnitude, the G2 category, can affect satellites in orbit around Earth and disrupt power grids. Typically, solar storms are not strong enough to be visible from areas other than the high altitude regions around the North or South poles. But the storm was visible from New York, Wisconsin and Washington state, SPACE.com reported.
On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned that solar storms could cause orientation irregularities in satellites and cause fluctuations in the power grid. It then extended the alert until Tuesday but downplayed the potential impact of the solar storm to fluctuations in the weakened power grid.
People in South Dakota in the US, including photographer Randy Halvorson, were able to capture an incredible view of the aurora, a colorful light show in the sky caused by a solar storm, on Monday. These lights are created when particles from the Sun interact with gases in our atmosphere.
Arora from Central SD last night. pic.twitter.com/oLjeANCTkr
— Randy Halverson (@dakotalapse) 12 October 2021
Auroras are often seen in areas near the North or South Pole.
Solar storms are common space weather events because coronal mass ejections (CMEs) regularly occur from the Sun’s atmosphere. CMEs are made of electrically charged plasma and this plasma travels outwards and can collide with the Earth’s magnetic shield. When this plasma hits the magnetic shield at astronomical speeds of 45 million miles per hour, the charged particles move toward the poles releasing energy in the form of colored light.
The largest solar storm ever hit Earth in 1859. The Carrington event created an aurora that was visible even in areas very close to the equator.