What's a solar flare? And how can a geomagnetic storm make auroras visible in the US?

by 24USATVOct. 12, 2021, 11 p.m. 13
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Have no idea what a solar flare or geomagnetic storm is? We've got you covered.

A solar flare is burst of radiation from the sun from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots, according to NASA. Flares can last for minutes to hours and can be seen as bright spots on the sun from telescopes.

A geomagnetic storm is what happens after a solar flare if the exchange of energy from the sun reaches the space surrounding Earth through solar wind, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These storms can heat the ionosphere – where Earth's atmosphere meets space – causing beautiful auroras here on Earth.

Hence, the northern lights, aka the aurora borealis, visible to stargazers in some spots in the U.S and far northern and southern parts of the world after a "moderate" geomagnetic storm that hit Earth Monday.

Fact check:No, a massive solar storm is not approaching Earth any time soon

Study says:A 'space hurricane' hovered above the North Pole for about 8 hours

The colorful aurora forms when the particles flowing from the sun get caught up in the Earth's magnetic field. The particles interact with molecules of atmospheric gases to cause the famed glowing red and green colors.

A geomagnetic storm does not pose much threat to humans, but it can affect satellites orbiting Earth and GPS, It also can cause disruptions to some radio communications, according to NASA.

The storm was rated a "G2" on the NOAA's five-level storm scale, with "G5" being the most serious.

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