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US satellites capture images of the aurora borealis surrounding the Earth

US satellites capture images of the aurora borealis surrounding the Earth

Over the past week, several solar storms have hit Earth. It was the most intense in 20 years. Although it has compromised our communications, such as GPS systems, it has also, as always, brought beautiful visuals.

These optical spectacles are commonly called the aurora borealis, or northern lights. This time, these explosions occurred after several coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are nothing more than the emission of very hot gas (plasma).

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As Mark Misch, a scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explained, Mashable“It’s like taking a piece of the sun and throwing it out into space.”

  • When they collide with our planet, the Sun’s particles can attach to Earth’s magnetic field;
  • This leads to its movement to the poles and its collision with molecules and particles in the atmosphere.
  • These atmospheric molecules then heat up and glow;
  • The event, which occurred on May 11, was captured over the North Pole by three US meteorological and environmental satellites.
  • What we see is a bright ring around places where we wouldn’t normally have that kind of vision.

Take a look below at the set of images of the “geomagnetic storm,” spread across the northeastern, midwestern, and northwestern Pacific Ocean, captured by the Suomi-NPP, NOAA-20, and NOAA-21 satellites:

A collection of satellite images of the solar storm on May 11, 2024 (Image: NOAA)

Multiple coronal mass ejections from the Sun caused an intense geomagnetic storm around Earth last week, creating stunning auroras even in places where the northern lights are rarely seen. The Southern Hemisphere also reported noticeable afterglow from the storm.

NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)

Later this year, more intense solar activity may produce more vibrant auroras than the one that occurred on May 11.

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Just like Earth’s climate pattern, where the four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter – have a predetermined duration of two months on average, so does the Sun, but in the case of our main star, it lasts for 11 years.

Solar activity increases during the current period for approximately 5.5 years, then decreases and then increases again after that.