In the early morning of November 6, caceres area, In Extremadura, it was dyed colorful around 10:00 pm due to red flashes appearing in the night sky. It was nothing more, nothing less, Northern lights. Yes, it is the same one that appears in the skies of the more polar regions, but this time it is much more displaced. In fact, this phenomenon can also be seen in Other regions of Central Europesuch as some regions of Italy, France, Slovakia, Ireland or Poland.
However, the fact that this amazing phenomenon appears in areas so far from its “natural habitat” arouses a lot of interest. Why did they move away from their usual location? Is it a normal thing? Or should we be worried? To answer these questions, it is necessary to first understand How it is produced Northern lights and why Solar storm What happened this weekend has a lot to do with this strange event.
Solar storms that occur in our star, also known as geomagnetic storms, are precisely why the northern lights appear on Earth. Thus, the Sun is located 150 million kilometers from the planet Particle emission continuously. This is due to the pressure on the surface of the sun Oldest than that in the surrounding space, so particles can do this Easily escapeaccelerated thanks to the action of the solar magnetic field.
These are charged particles, known as ions, which are assembled into so-called Solar windWhich moves through space to reach the various objects in it, including the Earth. These particles move at speeds ranging between… 300 and 1000 km/sThat is, since it is emitted and added to the solar wind, it only passes through Two or three days Until they reach our planet.
Now, when these charged particles approach the Earth Earth’s magnetic field. This behaves similarly to a magnetAnd trapping it in the outer layers of the atmosphere and attracting it towards the poles. In the areas where they move, the atmosphere is full of various oxygen and nitrogen molecules, so solar energy molecules interact with these elements, causing them to They feel excited And to pray High energy states.
However, it is a process that only lasts for a few A millionth of a second Well, only after that time, since these states are unstable, do the oxygen and nitrogen molecules return to their state Basic levels He becomes frustrated, thus losing the energy gained and expelling it in the form of… PhotonsThat is, particles that produce light. Depending on the wavelength and intensity at which these photons leave the molecules, The light will be one color or anotherThe sky will appear colored in different shades.
The truth is that the northern lights usually appear in the polar regions of the Earth, because the magnetic field when interacting with the solar wind, It tends to be attracted towards the poles. Therefore, in that region molecules will come into contact with molecules, exciting them and causing colors to appear in the sky.
The aurora borealis was photographed in Northumberland, on the north-eastern coast of England, on Sunday, November 5, 2023.
Why in Spain?
But why did the northern lights appear far from the poles? Well, it’s all because of a major solar storm, known as… A strong geomagnetic storm, which took place this weekend. During this phenomenon, strong processes Magnetic reconnectionThis affects the organization of solar matter and leads to the release of a larger number of particles than usual, in addition to a certain amount of plasma.
All of these elements create The solar wind is more intense than usual, which, upon reaching Earth, are able to interact more strongly with the magnetic field, changing it slightly and causing charged particles not to be completely redirected to the polar regions. So can these Stay in other regions of the atmosphereThere they interact with oxygen and nitrogen molecules, which also causes the northern lights to appear in regions far from the poles.
Is it then a worrying thing? Is that powerful geomagnetic storm dangerous? You can stay calm. That’s normal The activity of the sun is modified over time. In fact, this varies depending on the solar cycles, which last between 10 and 12 years, so it is natural that when they reach their end, solar activity becomes stronger. Specifically, the solar cycle we find ourselves in now The maximum will be reached in 2025Therefore, the fact that we experience strong solar winds is completely normal. In fact, such phenomena are likely to reappear within the next two years, as the end of the solar cycle approaches.
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