Skywatchers across much of North America reported seeing lots of red and green lights in the evening sky. Thanks to an incoming coronal mass ejection that slammed into Earth’s magnetic field around 2 pm Eastern time on Monday, October 24th, the atmosphere was flooded with charged particles causing northern lights to appear as far south as California, New Mexico and Georgia. In Montreal, Canada, where I am located, in a very brightly lit suburb filled with bright sports fields and porch lights I could easily see green spikes cut across the northern sky (see image below), dancing in front of my eyes for well over an hour, until 11 pm, when it started to subside.
Check out this neat time-lapse video taken in Georgia early this morning (Oct.25) that shows the eerie curtains of orange and reds creep across the northern horizon. These intense deep red auroras are a rare treat and usually only show up during intense geomagnetic storms like this one, generated as high as 300 km in altitude.
Stay tuned for more colourful auroras surely to appear in the coming months as the sun becomes more active as it climbs towards its peak solar cycle in 2013. Solar viewing telescopes have found a significant increase in sunspot activity – larger and more numerous – and if these sunspots produce solar flares and clouds of charged particles when they just happen to face Earth – then we get a chance to see auroral activity.
So with more and more sunspots popping up on the sun’s surface astronomers are expecting a definite uptick in the number of northern lights this autumn and winter, which means there will be more opportunities for intense geomagnetic storms that can cause really impressive sky lights as least as good, if not better than the one many witnessed Monday night.
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