Solar flares prompt ‘geomagnetic storm watch’ and aurora alert •

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), a key division of the National Weather Service, currently keeps a close eye on the Sun following several major solar events. These events have raised concerns about a strong geomagnetic storm, prompting the issuance of a Geomagnetic Storm Watch.

Coronal hole discovered on December 4

NOAA observed a stream of high-speed solar particles coming from a large coronal foramen which is expected to lead to a G2 (moderate) geomagnetic storm on December 4 (UTC day) and a G1 (minor) storm on December 5, 2023, according to an alert this morning from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).

Coronal foramina play an important role in creating auroras on earth. These dark areas of the Sun’s surface, characterized by open magnetic fields, allow solar winds to escape more easily into space. When these high-speed solar winds, which often emanate from coronal holes, reach Earth, they can interact with the planet’s magnetosphere.

November 28 solar flare and CME

On November 27 and 28, the Sun experienced several coronal mass ejections (CME), which are massive bursts of solar wind and magnetic fields that rise above the solar corona or are released into space. These CMEs have triggered a flurry of activities and observations by space weather experts.

A notable solar flare was detected on November 28 at 2:50 pm EST. This event originated in Region 3500, a moderately complex sunspot group located near the Sun’s central meridian. The flare was associated with the fourth full-halo CME observed during this period.

Interestingly, the fourth CME is advancing at an accelerated pace compared to the previous ones. This increase in speed is attributed to the previous CME making way through the solar wind. This CME is expected to merge with two of the three previous CMEs, with an expected arrival at Earth between the night of November 30 and December 1.

Impact of the geomagnetic storm

SWPC forecasters are closely monitoring the situation using NOAA forecasts. DSCOVR satellite, which provides real-time data on solar winds. This information is crucial to understanding the strength and timing of the predicted geomagnetic storm.

Geomagnetic storms are known to affect infrastructure both in near-Earth orbit and on the Earth’s surface. These impacts may include disruptions to communications, the power grid, navigation systems, radio frequencies, and satellite operations. such storms They are a major concern for industries and services that depend on these technologies.

High auroral activity expected

An interesting and visually impressive consequence of geomagnetic storms is the aurora, commonly known as Northern or Southern Lights. This storm has the potential to push the aurora further south from its usual position over the polar regions.

If weather conditions are favorable, auroras may be visible throughout the northern US and upper Midwest, from Illinois to Oregon. Residents in these areas are encouraged to check the latest news from NOAA. aurora forecast to have the best opportunity to witness this natural phenomenon.

NOAA’s SWPC continues to closely monitor these solar events, providing updates and forecasts. As the situation evolves, they will provide guidance on the potential impacts of the geomagnetic storm. The public and relevant industries are advised to stay informed and prepared for any disruption that may occur.

More about geomagnetic storms

As discussed above, geomagnetic storms represent disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere, caused by solar wind shocks or interactions of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetic field. These storms, which often originate from activities of the Sun such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), have profound effects on Earth’s magnetic environment.

Journey of the Sun to Earth

The story of a geomagnetic storm begins with the Sun. Solar flares, intense bursts of radiation and CMEs, large plasma ejections and the planet’s magnetic fields. solar crown, play fundamental roles. These phenomena release enormous quantities of particles into space, which can reach the Earth and interact with its magnetic field, triggering a geomagnetic storm.

After its eruption, solar particles and electromagnetic waves travel through space and take approximately 1 to 3 days to reach Earth. The speed and intensity of these particles vary depending on the strength of the solar event.

Interaction with the Earth’s magnetosphere.

Upon arrival, these charged particles collide with Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. This collision causes complex changes and disturbances in the magnetosphere, giving rise to a geomagnetic storm. These storms have a variety of impacts, from beautiful auroras to potential disruptions in technology.


The most visible and striking effect is the dawn, known as the northern and southern lights. These colorful displays occur when charged particles collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in fascinating light shows typically seen near the polar regions.

Technological disruptions

More importantly, geomagnetic storms can disrupt satellite operations and affect GPS and communication systems. They can induce currents in long conductors, impacting power grids and potentially causing widespread blackouts.

Impact on spacecraft and satellites.

Satellites and spacecraft, exposed to increased radiation, are at risk of damage or malfunction during these storms. This risk requires careful monitoring and protective measures in space missions.

Geomagnetic storm prediction

Organizations like NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center actively monitor the Sun and forecast geomagnetic storms. They use satellites like DSCOVR to track solar winds and provide early warnings, helping to mitigate potential impacts to technology and infrastructure.

In short, geomagnetic storms, while a source of natural wonders, remind us of our planet’s vulnerability to solar activities. Understanding and monitoring these storms not only provides information about our space environment, but also helps us prepare for and mitigate their effects in our increasingly technology-dependent world.

More about the auroras

As mentioned above, auroras, often called the northern or southern lights, are a display of natural light predominantly seen in the polar regions of Earth. They occur when Earth’s magnetosphere is disturbed by the solar wind, a stream of particles from the Sun. This disturbance generates bright, colorful lights in the sky, forming auroras.

How auroras are formed

The formation of auroras begins with the emission of particles from the Sun’s atmosphere. These particles, mainly electrons and protons, travel towards Earth carried by the solar wind. Upon reaching Earth, these charged particles interact with the magnetic field and are channeled toward the polar regions.

When these particles collide with the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, they excite the atoms and molecules, causing them to light up. Oxygen and nitrogen, the main components of our atmosphere, play a key role in the coloration of auroras. Oxygen emits green and red lights, while nitrogen produces blue and purple hues.

types of auroras

Auroras come in several forms, each unique and impressive:

Aurora Borealis: Also known as the Northern Lights, it is visible in high-latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere, such as Canada, Alaska, and Scandinavia.

Aurora Australis: Known as the Southern Lights, they are seen in the southern hemisphere in places such as Antarctica, Chile and Australia.

seeing auroras

For the best aurora viewing experience, head to high-latitude regions during the winter months. Dark, clear nights, away from city lights, provide optimal conditions. The intensity of auroral manifestations can vary, influenced by the solar cycle and geomagnetic activity.

Cultural and scientific importance

The auroras have captivated the human imagination for centuries, inspiring myths and folklore. Cultures around the world have interpreted these lights in various ways, often attributing them to gods or spirits.

In modern times, the study of auroras is crucial to understanding Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. This research is vital to protecting satellites and communications systems from solar storms.

In short, auroras are a stunning natural phenomenon that offers a vivid display of Earth’s dynamic interaction with the Sun. Their beauty and complexity continue to intrigue scientists and enthusiasts alike, making them a bucket list item. wishes of travelers and a topic of ongoing scientific research.

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