Suspense rises as sun’s hot plasma feeds potential northern lights display

Written by Catherine Sweeney, CNN The Northern Lights is a natural phenomenon that occurs in this northern hemisphere in the winter when charged particles from the sun — known as plasma — burst into…

Suspense rises as sun's hot plasma feeds potential northern lights display

Written by Catherine Sweeney, CNN

The Northern Lights is a natural phenomenon that occurs in this northern hemisphere in the winter when charged particles from the sun — known as plasma — burst into the Earth’s atmosphere. The aurora borealis is visible in many places where the sky is clear.

Roughly every 24 hours the Aurora Borealis can be spotted in parts of Canada, Greenland, Siberia, Alaska, Mexico, Central America, and even in southern North America.

A few hours after midnight on Friday, most of North America will have a chance to catch a glimpse of the light as the sun’s surface will be visible, according to NASA.

Although the light will be visible, satellite and ground-based observations of the aurora borealis “may be reduced due to cloud cover,” the space agency said.

People in southern provinces of Canada, the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, South America, Chile, Central America, Australia, northern and eastern Asia, the Middle East, and northern Europe could also see the Northern Lights.

Solar superstorm on the rise

Solar activity always peaks every 11 years or so and so far this year the sun is expected to deliver several C blasts, which are stronger than an M, according to space weather forecasters.

The electric waves thrown up by these beams are equal to 180,000 volts, while the pulses that erupt every 11 years only cause plasma to spew 100 miles into space.

“Unfortunately the rate of activity on the sun right now is only slightly above normal, but the rate is expected to pick up as the year progresses,” National Weather Service meteorologist Nathan Grigg told CNN in an email.

The northern lights aren’t just affecting the North American part of the sky. Travelers can expect to see the dance of lights in other places too.

“Such a cosmic event will occur because the magnetic field at the edge of the sun has an interaction with Earth’s magnetic field, which causes it to bend, jump, and emit light,” NASA explained.

“There are various ways the particles could be amplified during a solar storm. They could be picked up by sensors that all operate along the magnetic field lines throughout the Earth.”

Using mapping equipment to measure these electrical currents, NASA is hoping to investigate the source of the aurora Borealis.

Whether it’ll be seen in your neighborhood or across the globe, don’t forget to take a selfie and share it with @CNNEarthTech on Instagram!

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