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Increased solar activity could push Northern Lights farther south

WHNS Greenville 8/18/2022 Bryan Bachman
How the Northern Lights work © Provided by WHNS Greenville How the Northern Lights work

GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - A recent uptick in solar activity has the potential to make the Northern Lights visible across many northern-tier states tonight.

Our planet is under constant bombardment by the solar wind, a stream of energized particles radiating out from the Sun. When these particles run into Earth’s magnetic field, many are safely deflected away into space. Other’s become electrically charged, and a pulled in toward the north and south poles where they begin to glow and create the auroras we know as the Northern and Southern Lights.

Over the last week, a combination of increasing solar wind and several large eruptions from the surface of the Sun have sent out a massive surge in solar particles. When these surges strike Earth, shockwaves are sent through our magnetic field, triggering what are called geomagnetic storms. In extreme cases, these storms can cause problems for power grids and GPS systems, but auroras like the Northern Lights can also be pushed much farther south.

Earth is currently in the grip of a geomagnetic storm, which is expected to peak Thursday into Friday. Based on the expected intensity, auroras may be visible tonight as far south as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, all the way to northern Oregon. We’re too far south to see them here in the Carolinas, but don’t be surprised if the Northern Lights are making headlines on Friday morning!

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