The northern lights can be visible in most parts of the United States due to the solar storm

An intense solar storm is expected to make the northern lights more powerful on Friday, and forecasts indicate that the aurora borealis could be seen as far south in the United States as Alabama.

A series of solar flares and solar flares could lead to intense geomagnetic storms and “spectacular displays of aurora borealis” on Earth from Friday evening through the weekend, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said Thursday.

This was the first hour of a severe geomagnetic storm The agency issued Since 2005.

“We have a rare event on our hands,” said Sean Dahl, service coordinator at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. “We’re a little worried. We haven’t seen this in a long time.”

Because strong geomagnetic storms have the potential to disrupt communications and power grids on Earth, as well as satellites in space, satellite and network operators have been told to prepare.

He said meteorologists expect the storm to arrive around 8 p.m. ET on Friday.

“We are less certain about the timing of these events, because we are talking about something 93 million miles away,” Dahl said, referring to the distance from the Sun to Earth.

A NASA spacecraft orbiting about a million miles from Earth, called the Advanced Composition Explorer, will help forecasters measure the solar wind and understand the timing and potential impacts more accurately.

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, come from charged particles released from the sun during solar storms. The colorful displays are created when clouds of these energetic particles collide with Earth’s magnetic field and interact with atoms and molecules in the planet’s upper atmosphere.

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The northern lights normally light up the night sky at high latitudes, but during periods of intense solar activity, they can be seen further south than usual.

the Space Weather Prediction Center forecasts He said it was possible to see the aurora borealis on Friday night “as far south as Alabama and Northern California.”

The agency maintains b Aurora dashboard Which provides short-term forecasts for the northern lights. If conditions are clear, the aurora borealis are best viewed from dark locations away from city lights.

Smartphones may be able to capture images of the aurora borealis in southern locations where the human eye can’t see anything unusual, Dahl said.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, several “moderate to strong” solar flares have been detected since Wednesday morning. Solar flares unleash clouds of plasma and charged particles, called coronal mass ejections, into space. The center said that at least five flares and associated coronal mass ejections appear to be directed toward Earth.

“Additional solar flares may lead to persistent geomagnetic storm conditions through the weekend,” she said in a statement.

When directed toward the Earth, this geomagnetic and solar radiation can induce currents on high-voltage transmission lines and cause problems for transformers on the power grid.

One of the most damaging geomagnetic storms occurred in 1989, when nearly 6 million people in Montreal, Canada, lost power for nine hours. According to NASA. Some parts of the northeastern United States and Sweden were also affected by this event.

In 2002, a coronal mass ejection occurred It shot down 38 commercial satellites.

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The Sun goes through 11-year cycles from minimum to maximum activity. The current cycle, which began in late 2019, is It is expected to peak with maximum activity in July 2025According to NOAA and NASA projections.

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