A huge solar storm creating an amazing display of the famous Northern Lights over large portions of the United States, Europe, as well as the Southern Lights in Australia and New Zealand early Wednesday morning.
Known as the aurora borealis in the North and aurora australis in the South, the lights came as a result of gigantic geomagnetic explosions from the sun that first arrived Tuesday and collided with the magnetic field of the Earth, creating the spectacular light show, according to a CNN report.
It was a big geomagnetic storm, measuring G4 on a 5-point scale, according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. Scientists expected it to last 24 to 36 hours, and it has since been reduced to a G1.
Such storms pose a risk to GPS technology and power grids if they’re strong enough, but even though this latest solar blast was pretty strong, NOAA reported no disruptions. Instead, people in certain locations were able to enjoy a bright green treat just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
Auroras are caused by charged particles colliding with the magnetic field of the Earth in the upper atmosphere, which creates brilliant colors — usually green when they collide with the oxygen in the atmosphere, although sometimes they are red when the collide with high-altitude oxygen.
Auroras are only seen in the Arctic and Antarctic regions — closer to the magnetic poles — and the bigger the storm is, the farther away from the poles they can be seen. They are caused by charged electrons and protons that enter the atmosphere, causing ionisation and excitation of particles and result in the light display we see.
Auroras are caused by geomagnetic storms, which are a solar wind shock wave from the sun that comes from what is known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), which sends charged particles hurtling from the surface of the sun toward Earth.