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

Andrew Weaver congratulates New Brunswick on electing first Green caucus

Election win means there are now three provincial Green Party caucuses in Canada

Finalists announced for Victoria’s National Philanthropy Day awards

Finalists are in for National Philanthropy Day awards in Victoria next month.… Continue reading

Tennis twins still acing it, oceans apart

62-year-old brothers at international level

Tents, tarps found at North Saanich homeless camp

No drug paraphernalia at Horth Hill Regional Park, says CRD

GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon seeks volunteers

The 39th annual event returns Oct. 7, requires more than 1,600 volunteers

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

B.C. making progress on senior care staffing, Adrian Dix says

Minister aims to meet residential care provincial standard by 2021

B.C. realtor receives racist letter touching on ‘empty homes’

The letter has been met with condemnation of the racism after Winnie Wu posted it online

Motorcyclist dead following crash on Vancouver Island

Victim was driving down from Mount Washington Resort on Strathcona Parkway

WATCH: Rare close encounter with whale pod

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Pawsitive response by B.C. community for 60-plus surrendered cats

Community comes together to help surrendered cats at Penticton SPCA

Judge weighs Cosby’s sentence after declaring him ‘predator’

Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill made the decision as he weighed the punishment for Cosby

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

U.S. worker charged after video shows him spitting on customer’s pizza

Jaylon Kerley of Detroit is charged with a felony count of food law violations

Most Read