Northern lights may end year with a spectacle thanks to solar flare

Aurora borealis set to blaze further south than usual after Monday's sunspot eruption

Aurora borealis in Yellowknife.



You might want to keep an eye on the sky for the next couple of nights.

A solar flare that erupted in Earth’s direction Monday is expected to bring intense aurora borealis for the final nights of 2015, lighting the night in some areas that don’t usually witness the northern lights.

The eruption of a sunspot cluster caused some radio blackouts in the southern hemisphere and sent a magnitude 1.9 coronal mass ejection racing towards us.

“Space weather forecasters predict a direct hit with Earth’s magnetic field on or around New Year’s Eve, potentially sparking some natural fireworks in the upper atmosphere just in time for 2016,” according to discovery.com.

“It means we have a chance of seeing aurora in areas that aren’t used to seeing it,” said Dr. Robyn Fiori, a research scientist for Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Space Weather Forecast Centre.

The solar eruption was timed perfectly with the sun’s rotation to point in Earth’s direction.

“It’s basically a big explosion of particles,” Fiori told Black Press. “These kinds of explosions happen all the time. This one was a little bit special because it happened in the centre of the sun right where it’s facing the Earth. That means those particles and the magnetic field associated with those particles have a really good chance of interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field.”

She said most of the activity will likely happen Wednesday night.

This was the view captured near Campbell River by Ryan Dawson following a strong solar flare in July of 2012 that produced rare summer aurora. (Campbell River Mirror)

It’s not yet assured that that an aurora extravaganza will be visible across all of B.C., but it looks hopeful.

Fiori said the auroral oval around the magnetic north pole where aurora are most often visible normally only covers the northeastern corner of B.C.

“It’s possible that auroral oval will expand to cover much of B.C.”

The NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre says aurora may be visible at 50 degrees latitude and possibly as far south as Oregon.

The U.S. agency has issued a “strong” geomagnetic storm watch for Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, creating potential for a natural light show on New Year’s Eve as revelers ring in 2016.

NOAA forecasters say the sunspot cluster that unleashed Monday’s flare is unstable and could explode again, releasing further flares.

Images courtesy NOAA

Just Posted

Greater Victoria teachers experienced more than 30 incidents of violence from students in one month

Shuttered behavioural programs, lack of resources creates challenges for local schools

Canadian alcohol policy gets failing grade from UVic researchers

Canadian provinces and territories collectively achieved less than half of their potential to reduce alcohol related harm

Esquimalt High robotics team heads to international competition

The Esquimalt Atom Smashers will participate in the FIRST Robotics Canada competition

Island playoffs underway at Oak Bay High

Home team vies for fifth straight Island title

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

POLL: Will you be wearing pink to take a stand against bullying

Schools and workplaces across Greater Victoria and around the province will be… Continue reading

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

UPDATE: Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Federal fisheries minister calls for precautionary approach to fish farming

Government still reviewing Federal Court’s decision on PRV – Wilkinson

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

Most Read