Are the auroras coming back? : NPR

The Sun has gone through a cycle, and the active region that triggered a large amount of aurora activity is headed back toward Earth—but not directly.

GOES 16/Space Weather Prediction Center


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GOES 16/Space Weather Prediction Center

The part of the Sun that created the strong activity responsible for the stunning aurora displays earlier this month has rotated back towards Earth. So, will much of America be treated to the Northern Lights again? The answer — and the conditions — are both a little murky.

Zone 3664 caused an explosion of nocturnal beauty. It is now known as zone 3697 (the number designation changes as the sun goes through a cycle).

“However, as it encountered Earth in early May, the region was significantly degraded,” Shawn Dahl, a space weather forecaster at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colo., told NPR by email.

As per current conditions, moderate geomagnetic storm levels are possible from May 31 to June 1. Latest forecast From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center. On a scale that runs up to G5 (“extreme”), the agency predicts storm strength around G2, which typically causes only minor disruptions to systems on Earth. At G2 level, an aurora can sometimes be seen as far south as New York and Idaho.

The auroras that light up the night sky come from geomagnetic storms—which can be the result of solar activity such as a coronal mass ejection (or CME) that bursts from the Sun and sends a stream of plasma toward Earth.

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“A CME associated with the X1.4 flare, produced in the period before region 3697, is likely to increase Earth’s magnetic field late May 31 early June 01,” the Space Weather Service said. X said via site.

Why wouldn’t this show be so awesome?

Dahl says conditions are not favorable for a repeat of the events from early May with the unstable and active solar system.

“It’s not pointing directly at Earth yet, but it will be in line with Earth in the next couple of days,” he said. “CMEs expand widely and rapidly as they leave the Sun and travel into space – even if they don’t target Earth (like the current CME tonight, which may provide some impact) they can expand enough to have a visual impact.”

As for region 3697, it is “unstable and has the potential to generate additional activity as it orbits the Sun over the next 10 days,” Dahl says.

But there’s another factor working against eye-catching auroras: There’s less nighttime now.

“As we get longer and longer days now, seeing the aurora will become more difficult because the windows of opportunity must be centered around local dark-sky times (i.e., 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.),” Dahl said. “

Two weeks ago, Solar System 3664 capped off a run of powerful expanding activity with an X-ray flare measured at X8.7 — “the largest this solar cycle!” The The Space Weather Forecast Center has announced.

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Our solar cycle hasn’t peaked yet: a solar cycle typically lasts 11 years. Our current cycle, 25, is expected to peak next year.

Solar cycle 25 is predicted to be the weakest cycle. Same strength as cycle 24, step National Weather Service. “Solar maximum expected in July 2025 with 115 sunspots.”

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