Storm To Bring Northern Lights To Britain

Britain should experience spectacular Northern Lights displays from Thursday due to a large solar storm which could disrupt communication networks, the British Geological Survey (BGS) said. "Since February 13 three energetic solar flares have erupted on the sun and spewed clouds of charged plasma called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) out towards the earth," a BGS geomagnetic storm warning said.

The moon with the aurora borealis or the northern lights are seen on the sky above the village of Ersfjordbotn near Tromso in northern Norway, late on Sunday Feb. 13, 2011. Aurorae are caused by the interaction between energetic charged particles from the Sun and gas molecules in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, about 100 kilometres up. A stream of charged particles, called the solar wind, flows out into space continuously from the Sun at speeds of 400-500 kilometres per second. On reaching Earth, the charged particles are drawn by Earth's magnetic field to the poles, where they collide with gas molecules in the upper atmosphere, causing them to emit light.

Britain should experience spectacular Northern Lights displays from Thursday due to a large solar storm which could disrupt communication networks, the British Geological Survey (BGS) said.

"Since February 13 three energetic solar flares have erupted on the sun and spewed clouds of charged plasma called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) out towards the earth," a BGS geomagnetic storm warning said.

"Already one CME arrived on the 14th sparking Valentine's Day displays of the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) further south than usual.

"Two CMEs are expected to arrive in the next 24-48 hours and further...displays are possible some time over the next two nights if skies are clear."

The strongest storm in four years is expected to interfere with satellites and electrical networks, with astronomers in southern China already reporting disturbances to radio communications.

The BGS Wednesday published geomagnetic records dating back to the Victorian era which it hopes will help in planning for future storms.

"Life increasingly depends on technologies that didn't exist when the magnetic recordings began," Alan Thomson, BGS head of geomagnetism said.

"Studying the records will tell us what we have to plan and prepare for to make sure systems can resist solar storms," he added.

AFP