05 October 2008

Aurorae

This weekend, if you live in more Northern climes, keep your eyes peeled for the Northern lights (or Southern if you live more southerly). As we come more into solar maximum, they should become more common. Aurorae are caused by charged particles from the Sun interacting with the Earth's magnetic field, much like a current in a fluorescent bulb interacts with the ionized gas inside. As we approach solar maximum, the Sun is more likely to throw off loops of material in a solar flare, like in the below picture.



If there is enough material, and it's sent in the right direction (towards Earth), then in a few days it'll get to us and we'll have a chance of Northern lights! Because of how the Earth's magnetic field is shaped, they tend to happen towards the poles, so if you live in Canada chances are you've seen them, and if you live in Florida chances are you never will.

1 comment:

Matt Jacobs said...

Damnit, more variables to keep track of. Astrologers are good about keeping track of the 19-year eclipse cycle. But I've never heard of an astrologer doing anything with the cycle of sunspots. Stupid variables...