Northern Lights: Why do we get auroras on Earth after eruptions occur on Sun? NASA says THIS

The auroras result from solar flares and coronal mass ejections, with different gases causing various colors in the atmosphere.

Livemint
First Published12 May 2024, 08:06 AM IST
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, illuminate the night sky over the mountains in Le Col des Mosses pass, Ormont-Dessous, Switzerland, during the early hours of Saturday, May 11, 2024. Brilliant purple, green, yellow and pink hues of the Northern Lights were reported worldwide, with sightings in Germany, Switzerland, London, and the United States and Canada. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, illuminate the night sky over the mountains in Le Col des Mosses pass, Ormont-Dessous, Switzerland, during the early hours of Saturday, May 11, 2024. Brilliant purple, green, yellow and pink hues of the Northern Lights were reported worldwide, with sightings in Germany, Switzerland, London, and the United States and Canada. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)(AP)

A stunning display of auroras illuminated the skies over various regions for the second consecutive night on Saturday, following an awe-inspiring showcase.

This captivating celestial phenomenon results from a potent solar storm, which may persist into Sunday, offering breathtaking views of the “northern lights” that typically grace the far northern latitudes of the planet. This celestial phenomenon raises the question of why we get auroras on Earth after eruptions occur on the Sun.

Also Read: Earth bracing for powerful solar storm after 20 years. Here's how it may impact you

In a post on X, NASA Sun & Space explained this and noted that there are two things we call solar eruptions: solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). They often occur together, but not always.

“Solar flares are intense flashes of light — a result of the Sun’s complex magnetic fields abruptly rearranging themselves,” it said.

Solar flares. (Photo: Nasa Sun & Space/X)

It further explained that the Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are giant clouds of solar particles laced with magnetic fields that escape from the Sun. “These giant clouds can travel anywhere in the solar system, including to us here on Earth,” it added.

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are giant clouds of solar particles laced with magnetic fields that escape from the Sun. (Photo: NASA Sun & Space /X)

It further explained that solar flares reach us quickly as “light only takes about 8 minutes to reach Earth.”

"Because CMEs are made up of particles, they may take days to reach us. But when they do, they can set the aurora alight," it added.

Also Read: Northern Lights visible in India? Aurora borealis may glitter tonight in this state

Thus, when a CME collides with Earth’s magnetic field, it can dump solar particles into near-Earth space. “These particles follow Earth’s magnetic field lines as they dive into our atmosphere in a “ring” around the poles called the auroral oval,” it further explained.

AFP reported that CMEs originated from an extensive sunspot cluster, which spans a width approximately 17 times larger than Earth. The Sun is nearing the apex of an 11-year cycle characterized by increased solar activity.

When a CME collides with Earth’s magnetic field, it can dump solar particles into near-Earth space. (Photo: NASA Sun & Space/X)

What factors determine the colours of the auroras?

NASA Sun & Space said, “The incoming particles strike gases in our atmosphere, causing them to heat up and glow: the aurora. The colours depend on the type of gas and its altitude. Oxygen glows red or blue; nitrogen can be green, blue, or pink.”

NASA maintains a specialized team focused on astronaut safety, capable of directing astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to relocate to areas within the outpost offering enhanced shielding.

Also Read: Northern Lights: Auroras may light up the skies for another night as massive solar storm continues | See Pictures

Geomagnetic storms can impact not only astronauts but also various species with internal biological compasses. Pigeon handlers have reported a decrease in the return of birds during geomagnetic storms, as noted by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Carrington Event, regarded as the most potent geomagnetic storm ever recorded, took place in September 1859 and was named after British astronomer Richard Carrington.

(With inputs from AFP)

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.MoreLess
First Published:12 May 2024, 08:06 AM IST
HomeNewsTrendsNorthern Lights: Why do we get auroras on Earth after eruptions occur on Sun? NASA says THIS

Most Active Stocks

Bharat Electronics

313.50
03:59 PM | 18 JUL 2024
-12.85 (-3.94%)

Oil & Natural Gas Corporation

331.20
03:59 PM | 18 JUL 2024
8.8 (2.73%)

Zee Entertainment Enterprises

142.45
03:59 PM | 18 JUL 2024
-13 (-8.36%)

Tata Steel

166.35
03:56 PM | 18 JUL 2024
-0.7 (-0.42%)
More Active Stocks

Market Snapshot

  • Top Gainers
  • Top Losers
  • 52 Week High

India Cements

344.75
03:54 PM | 18 JUL 2024
21.7 (6.72%)

IDBI Bank

92.19
03:59 PM | 18 JUL 2024
4.27 (4.86%)

Endurance Technologies

2,679.00
03:29 PM | 18 JUL 2024
102.4 (3.97%)

Gillette India

8,002.75
03:29 PM | 18 JUL 2024
275 (3.56%)
More from Top Gainers

Recommended For You

    More Recommendations

    Gold Prices

    • 24K
    • 22K
    Bangalore
    75,099.00-147.00
    Chennai
    74,659.00-440.00
    Delhi
    74,512.00-294.00
    Kolkata
    75,539.0073.00

    Fuel Price

    • Petrol
    • Diesel
    Bangalore
    102.86/L0.00
    Chennai
    100.76/L0.00
    Kolkata
    104.95/L0.00
    New Delhi
    94.72/L0.00
    OPEN IN APP
    HomeMarketsPremiumInstant LoanMint Shorts