Scientists say May's northern lights were the space spectacle of a lifetime

A geomagnetic storm on May 10 and 11 produced visible auroras over the United States, Jamaica, and South Africa. (AP/Robert F. Bukaty)

Two weeks ago, an epic scene Auroras Danced in the sky the night from America up to Jamaica And South Africa. Now, space scientists say this solar storm Most impressive in recent decades, and in some cases, even recent centuries.

On the 10th and 11th MayA Geomagnetic storm “Severe” – reaches the most severe level intensity– Bombed Earth's atmosphere are unleashed Auroras Great beauty. New analyzes show that Magnetic activity of Storm Stronger after 1989 Space Weather Prediction Center of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Deployment Auroras The last 500 years have been one of the most vibrant Pot.

“We've never seen it in most of our lives Auroras At that level,” said Mike Betvey, chief operating officer Space Weather Prediction Center of NOAA. “At the same time, it's interesting that no Impacts Very significant.”

The Geomagnetic storms are created when a wave develops particles And Plasma Comes from the sun —often from powerful explosions on its surface—temporarily disturbs the protective magnetic bubble. land. Sometimes they damage networks E And this satellites Orbit that land. The NOAA Classifies Geomagnetic storms On a scale from G1 to G5, G5 is severity Storm May 10 – Very serious.

Scientists confirm that the May solar storm was the most powerful in decades, surpassing events from past centuries. (Photo: @TheMaxiArte)

The May 2024 event joins a short list Storms Very serious.

in front Storm May, last G5 Storm It was in October 2003 that A Blackout in Canada, power outages in Sweden and damage to transformers in South Africa. It also caused Auroras Inside Florida, Central Europe, Australia and some Mediterranean countries.

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At the same time Storm The year 2003 was notable Power outages Around the world, the technical effects this May were not as big, Betvey said. were in some areas Voltage irregularitiesHowever NOAA Still trying to figure out if they were all due Geomagnetic storm.

Planes had to divert due to signal interference. RadioAnd some settings GPS Farms stopped working. Also, some satellites of private companies – etc Amazon And Star connection– went safely and was swept out of orbit by a flood of particles. Sun light.

NASA studies show that the storm produced magnetic activity not seen since 1989. (X/@pacoelizondo_)

Even though Impacts That was lower than in 2003, the data show Storm May 2024 was even more powerful. Ring measuring instruments currents around landKnown as Magnetometers, showed greater perturbations in overland currents. The Global geomagnetic activity Average Storm It was old too.

According to Bedwee, The Storm May 1989 was comparable to March, which was much higher Geomagnetic storm One of the biggest of that decade and century. This is A Blackout in Canada and damaged transformers in North America. They looked at each other Auroras Even in Texas Florida.

But the Storm May is not competitive Geomagnetic storms Very powerful in the last hundred years. It is recorded three times less than the popular event 1859 CarringtonIt silenced and directed telegraph systems around the world Auroras up to Mexico.

as Storm May was well planned and viewers around the world were armed with smartphones and digital cameras Auroras They may be the most photographed in history.

The storm was classified as a G5, the highest intensity on the NOAA scale. (Owen Humphreys/AP)

“Nearly every part of the world had some report of her, at least on one night,” said Bedwee. According to a press release from PotProbably one of the greatest scenes from the 16th century.

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Chris Wicklund, computer enthusiast AurorasCreated manual map and verified views Auroras Based on social media site posts X, which took 48 to 72 hours. Including this one found about 2,600 reports worldwide Australia, Central America, South AmericaSouth Africa And Central Europe.

“The purpose of this was that I wanted to map how far the oval could be seen from the oval the dawn Going south,” Wicklund said Offutt Air Force Base and hopes to become the official space weather forecaster. “It's different for everyone Geomagnetic storm. It will never be the same. “

Another website where users can submit their observations Auroraswas invited Aurorasaurus, recorded another approximately 4,000 reports. project AurorasaurusSupport Pot And this National Science FoundationUses reports for scientific research.

Despite the size, the technical impacts were smaller than previous storms, according to NOAA's Mike Betvie. (Mathias Baena/dpa/AP)

Already seen Wicklund Aurora Borealis 30 times, I was inside Mississippi When predictions of strong geomagnetic activity appeared plausible. Not wanting to miss the show, he flew back MinnesotaHis home state, just to see Auroras know from Mississippi. He says that dwelling on it caused him pain MississippiBut that light show Minnesota It was one of the best he had ever seen.

“Pillars don't appear out of nowhere,” says Wicklund, who completed his bachelor's degree. Meteorology In St. Cloud State University. “I saw colors moving very quickly and sometimes even faces. “I have a photo of a phoenix.” He says he hopes his map will be useful the next time a disaster strikes. G5 StormShows skywatchers how far away dawn Inside Storms previous.

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You can see how far south people expect to see the dawn By sampling OVATION of NOAA, which provides a short-term forecast of the intensity of the auroral oval in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Bedwee said if the model incorporated certain statements the dawn In real time, line of sight the dawn It will spread further south. And we try to incorporate real observations into the model, he said.

The part of the Sun that created May's storm is still active and sending large flares toward Mars and space. (Archive)

Project scientists Aurorasaurus Observations and photographs, they say, can improve our understanding of different species Auroras Why and where they might appear. Ian Cohen, space physicist Johns Hopkins University Applied Science LaboratoryIt says that there are many types Auroras Such scientists still do not understand The throbbing auroras waves Necklace AurorasBubbles appear in the sky.

However Storm Done, part the sun It is still active when it rotates land. The region continues to emit large flares and explosions, but towards tuesday and location. The Pot Plans to publish data on activity, and Storm It will be studied by scientists for a long time.

“I'll think about this weekend for the rest of my life,” Jamie Favors said Space Weather Project of Pot.

(c) The Washington Post

Misty Tate

"Freelance twitter advocate. Hardcore food nerd. Avid writer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver."

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