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

Jamie’s Whaling Station gives big to local non-profits

Over $80,000 in visitor fees donated back to community.

Holiday vessel parades in Tofino and Ucluelet

“It’s what makes Ucluelet a community, when we all get together.”

Santa Claus coming to Tofino and Ucluelet

“It’s another wonderful community warm-feeling event and a great fundraiser for our kids.”

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation meets with Tofino salmon farm in wake of ‘blood water’ video

“All parties are now working together to voluntarily make some changes and improvements…”

Ucluelet First Nation receives $500,000 for new daycare centre

“Too many B.C. families are struggling to find child care.”

VIDEO: Best photos of the Supermoon 2017

At its closest, the Frost Moon was about 363,300 km away from the Earth

Firefighters protect seaside California towns as blaze rages

A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday

Putin declares victory on visit to air base in Syria

Declaring a victory in Syria, Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation.

Pipe bomb explodes in NYC subway

Pipe bomb strapped to man explodes in NYC subway, injuring 4

Toronto FC to hold victory parade following MLS Cup championship

Toronto FC to hold downtown victory parade following MLS Cup championship

Canada’s only commercial spaceport hopes to launch 12 rockets per year

Nova Scotia’s rocket launch site hopes to eventually host 12 launches per year

‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globes

The nominees were announced from Beverly Hills after still-burning fires ravaged Southern California for the past week.

B.C. actress’s role in Wonder brings perspective to the topic of bullying

Crystal Lowe plays bully’s mother in the Hollywood movie

Site C decision coming Monday

Premier John Horgan to announce fate of dam project at B.C. legislature

Most Read